treatment of characters at psychological level in The Scarlet Letter

Essay by AimmieUniversity, Master'sA, March 2014

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2) Treatment of characters at psychological level in "The Scarlet Letter"

Hawthorne was an explorer of the dark recesses of the human soul. Hawthorne shows himself as a really great psychologist in The SCarlet Letter. It is the inner life of the characters that constitutes the main theme of this novel. The inter relationships of the various characters among themselves, and their individual relationships to society, are worked out and developed through the medium of psychological analysis. In the case of each principal character, it is the state of mind of the individual at various stages of his or her life that interests the author. Both the hero and heroine in the story undergo a severe mental agony, and the author gives evidence of a keen insight in revealing to us the nature of that agony and the causes which bring it about. The third principal character, Chillingworth, does not undergo much mental torture, but in his case the psychology of revenge has been closely examined and stated in explicit terms.

Hester's thoughts and feelings are laid bare before us at every step. When she stands on the scaffold facing the multitude of citizens, she has a "burning blush" and yet a "haughty smile" on her face. The burning blush reveals her sense of shame caused by the public exposure, while the haughty smile shows her defiance of society's moral code. The Scarlet Letter, which she has embroided on the bosom of her dress, reveals "the desperate reckness of her mood." The memories of the past life which come to Hester as she stands on the scaffold, are psychologically true. Exposed to public disgrace, anybody would turn to his or her past life. It is the nature of a human being to turn to his or her past life.