The Scarlet Letter – AnalysisNathaniel Hawthorne’s background influenced him to write the bold novel The Scarlet Letter.
One important influence on the story is money. Hawthorne had never made much money as an author and the birth of his first daughter added to the financial burden (Biographical Note VII). He received a job at the Salem Custom House only to lose it three years later and be forced to write again to support his family (IX). Consequently, The Scarlet Letter was published a year later (IX).
It was only intended to be a long short story, but the extra money a novel would bring in was needed (Introduction XVI). Hawthorne then wrote an introduction section titled The Custom House to extend the length of the book and The Scarlet Letter became a full novel (XVI). In addition to financial worries, another influence on the story is Hawthorne’s rejection of his ancestors. His forefathers were strict Puritans, and John Hathorne, his great-great-grandfather, was a judge presiding during the S! alem witch trials (Biographical Note VII).Order now
Hawthorne did not condone their acts and actually spent a great deal of his life renouncing the Puritans in general (VII). Similarly, The Scarlet Letter was a literal soapbox for Hawthorne to convey to the world that the majority of Puritans were strict and unfeeling. For example, before Hester emerges from the prison she is being scorned by a group of women who feel that she deserves a larger punishment than she actually receives. Instead of only being made to stand on the scaffold and wear the scarlet letter on her chest, they suggest that she have it branded on her forehead or even be put to death (Hawthorne 51). Perhaps the most important influence on the story is the author’s interest in the dark side (Introduction VIII).
Unlike the transcendentalists of the era, Hawthorne confronted reality, rather than evading it (VII). Likewise, The Scarlet Letter deals with adultery, a subject that caused much scandal when it w! as first published (XV). The book revolves around sin and punishment, a far outcry from writers of the time, such as Emerson and Thoreau, who dwelt on optimistic themes (VII). This background, together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices enables Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter to the develop the theme of the heart as a prison. The scaffold scenes are the most substantial situations in the story because they unify The Scarlet Letter in two influential ways.
First of all, every scaffold scene reunites the main characters of the novel. In the first scene, everyone in the town is gathered in the market place because Hester is being questioned about the identity of the father of her child ( Hawthorne 52). In her arms is the product of her sin, Pearl, a three month old baby who is experiencing life outside the prison for the first time (53). Dimmesdale is standing beside the scaffold because he is Hester’s pastor and it is his job to convince her to repent and reveal the father’s name (65). A short time later, Chillingworth unexpectedly shows up within the crowd of people who are watching Hester after he is released from his two year captivity by the Indians (61). In the second scene, Dimmesdale is standing on top of the scaffold alone in the middle of the night (152).
He sees Hester and Pearl walk through the market place on their way back from Governor Winthrop’s bedside (157). When Dimmesdale recognizes them and tells them to join him, they walk up the steps to stand by his side (158). Chillingworth appears later standing beside the scaffold, staring at Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl. In the final scaffold scene, Dimmesdale walks to the steps of the scaffold in front of the whole town after his Election day sermon (263). He tells Hester and Pearl to join him yet again on the scaffold (264).
Chillingworth then runs through the crowd and tries to stop Dimmesdale from reaching the top of the scaffold, the one place where he can’t reach him (265). Another way in which the scenes are united is how each illustrates the immediate, delayed, and prolonged effects