Anti-transcendentalism is described as the belief that all humans are doomed to fall. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a very strong believer of this philosophy. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, his philosophy of anti-transcendentalism is demonstrated through his descriptions of Hester Prynne and the characters that are influenced by her.
Hester is young and tall "with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to marked brow and deep black eyes,"(Hawthorne, 50). Hawthorne makes her beautiful and elegant, which makes her irresistible both to her husband, Roger Prynne, and to the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. According to Hawthorne's philosophy, her beauty is the down fall of Mr. Prynne and Mr. Dimmesdale. Her beauty makes her irresistible, which causes these men to sin.
Mr. Roger Chillingworth, previously mentioned as Mr. Roger Prynne, is bent on revenge. Ever since he find out his wife has been engaged in an affair, he is cynical; he is certain he should know who has brought him shame. He changes his name and for years is quiet about Hester and his relationship. He is "thoughful for others, craving little for himself"ÃÂkind, true, just and of constant if not warm affections,"(Hawthorne, 158). His whole nature changes. He becomes sinful in his actions. He loses his religion and all that is good about him, but he is doomed because of his love for Hester and for his pride.
Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale is a young healthy minister who only seeks to do good. He is pious until he "falls" for Hester. Once he "falls," he is wrought by severe guilt. He keeps his sins from all the town's people. He is so determined not to let anyone know that his soul is affected that he becomes physically ill. The physician of the town, Chillingworth, becomes his newest companion, keeping him alive longer. His keeping his trespasses in and the initial fall for Hester is his doom.
The fact that Hester gets entrapped is brought on by several factors. First her husband sends her ahead to the new continent to claim land for them. Two years have passed and there is still no word from him. This is not so odd, but the fact that she mysteriously ends up being pregnant gives her away. When she is questioned about who her fellow adulterer is, she sins once again and refuses to reveal him, for his sake. For if he is revealed, then it is surely death.
The product of this affair is a beautiful little girl named Pearl. From the start this little girl is doomed; her existence is because of broken rules. She embodies all of the emotions that Hester is feeling when she has the affair. From the start Pearl is condemned to sin, just because she embodies all of the ruthless feelings her mother has.
Hester Prynne's descriptions and her influence on the other characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, is evidence of Hawthorne's belief in anti-transcendentalism. Through all the perils of Hester Prynne's life she is doomed to fall from the beginning. No matter what she does, according to Hawthorne's philosophy, she is condemned to fall.