Hawthornes Writing Style In The Scarlett Letter

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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A Critical Review of Nathaniel Hawthorns Writing style, in The Scarlet Letter There is no doubt that The Scarlet Letter is an extremely famous and highly acclaimed piece of literature. However, in my opinion it is greatly overrated.

Although it may have excited audiences at the time of its publication, I do not believe it has any place in modern society. Therefore I don't believe that it should be a part of the school syllabus today. Apart from Hawthorn's vapid writing style, he also loses the reader's interest by the use of some carelessly unrealistic scenes.

The first of these was when Chillingworth supposedly realized that Dimmesdale was suffering from guilt rather than some disease. When the pastor spoke he often clasped his chest with his hand, as if he were suffering from great pain. While the clergyman was asleep one night, Chillingworth glanced at his chest. Seeing no obvious physical problem, he took this as conclusive evidence that the man was suffering from guilt, and therefore was the father of Pearl.

This segment is horribly unrealistic. Even a person of extremely low intelligence knows that you don't need visible infection to suffer severe chest pains. I believe that he used this example because he didn't have the creativity, or literary skill to think up a realistic way for Chillingworth to discover the adulter's identity.

The second example of his slander of the laws of science, was in his description of the falling meteor. He stated that the falling meteor formed a giant red "A" in the sky. I may not be an expert astronomer, but I do know that meteorites do not leave lasting scarlet trails. Usually they appear as what are commonly know as "shooting stars", which are very bright, and show only as a small white streak. Therefore once again Hawthorn is writing his own version of reality.

On top of all these flaws, the book is written in a style that could put anyone to sleep. It should be sold with caffeine tablets simply to keep the reader awake. He writes in an extremely verbose and indirect fashion. I have noticed sentences with over 60 words, such as the following which is an extract from "The Custom House". "I felt it almost as a destiny to make Salem my home; so that the mould of features and cast of character which had all along been familiar here-ever, as one representative of the race lay down in his grave, another assuming, as it were, his sentry-march along the main street-might still in my little day be seen and recognized in the old town." Most of his sentences would make more sense if you read them backwards! Many people attribute his confusing writing style to the period in which he lived. However he came only a few years before one of my favorite authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In my opinion Arthur Conan Doyle employs a long winded style which adds depth to the story, the only reason Nathaniel Hawthorn uses such a style is to make himself sound more intelligent than he really is. He also uses a very old style of English in attempt to mimic Shakespeare's elegance. He fails miserably! I also dislike the inclusion of the first section entitled "The Customs House". It is 40 pages of absolute drivel, which simply explains how dull and monotonous his life was. Taking this in mind I have no Idea why he desired to inflict his boredom upon us.

The only good points I have managed to find in this book, are his use of symbolism and foreshadowing. He uses colors very effectively to symbolize good and evil. He also uses the color scarlet to uniquely identify Hester. When he uses it in reference to Pearl he is really identifying elements of Hester, which are displayed through Pearl.

Hawthorn gives good hints as to what will happen later in the novel. In fact he rarely spells anything out, he just continually hints at it until you figure it out for yourself.

The names he chose for his main characters are also symbolic. For example, Chillingworth could easily be described as a Chilling character. The name Dimmesdale refers to the clergyman's weak and timid character. Also Prynne rhymes with sin, which I am sure is not a coincidence.

This novel has a deep plot, and an interesting storyline. However, the authors verbose writing style, and inclination to stray to far from reality, prevent the reading of this book from being an enjoyable experience.