How far do you share Hawethorne's view of The Scarlet Letter as an "allegorical romance?"

Essay by sanjcUniversity, Bachelor's March 2004

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The study of literature is based on interpretation and analysis. With this in mind, I will seek to show my agreement that the Scarlet Letter is an allegorical romance, through my interpretation of some of the author's literary techniques. The plot allegorizes the Puritan concept of society and sin, and Hawethorne portrays this sin adequately through the circumstances that surround the protagonists Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. The strict Puritan society is evident in the portrayal of the characters Governor Bellingham who is representative of the state and Reverend John Wilson, who is representative of the church.

In addition to the story line itself, it is also important to have an insight on the author's background and his outlook on life, so that we may better understand the underlying meanings of the text. Nathaniel Hawethorne's ancestors, who were the first settlers in the state of Massachusetts, included two prominent judges, one of whom was active in the persecution of the Quakers in the 1630's and the other in the witch trials.

It seems as if he was ashamed of the actions of his ancestors. The word judge is important to the relative concept of judging others in the text. Along with the central theme of unconfessed sin destroying the soul, the act of men judging their fellow beings is also important. For his novels, Hawethorne drew on Puritan orthodox that was thought to examine the individual and collective consciousness under the pressure of anguish and suffering. He sought to dramatize such themes such as sin, guilt and retribution. Introspective depth and an urge to get inside the characters he created mark his writings. Hawethorne became acquainted with the transcendentalists Alcott and Emerson. He was in agreement with some of their theories, but not the majority. He was concerned...