The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by angeljuntiHigh School, 12th gradeA, June 2004

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Out of the many themes in this novel, the most important ones are individualism versus society, open and hidden guilt, vengeance, and good from evil. These themes revolved around the four main characters and were represented by them.

Individualism versus society. Hawthorne challenged that Puritans belief that the society is more important than the individual. Hester represented the rebel, an individual in a society where there was a law for everything. First, she followed her passion and committed adultery although both she and Dimmesdale were aware of the consequences. She refused to leave the town after she had been marked as the symbol of sin because she was determined to fight the society. Even though the whole society ostracized her, she living in Boston is like Hell for her, she fought back by staying in Boston and working. The community paid her for the embroidery talents.

Hester represented open guilt and Hester acceptance of her sin freed her and made her stronger.

Dimmesdale, on the other hand, represented hidden guilt. He was not brave enough to accept it to the entire community but this guilt is killing him from the inside.

The theme of vengeance is mostly portrayed through Chillingworth. It was the only thing that he lived for. He became so consumed by it that it later deteriorated him.

The good and evil theme was represented by Dimmesdale and Pearl. Dimmesdale was such an eloquent preacher because he knew sin. His passionate talk came from his anger and guilt. Pearl, although the product of sin, saved her mother. She was the reason for which Hester lived and did not go to the dark side.


Exposition: The novel started on the day when Hester Prynne was to be publicly exposed for her crime at the scaffold of a...