Guilt In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Emotions are motivators. Whether the emotion is an intense rage or an endless depression, it stimulates a response. For Nathaniel Hawthorne a mid 19th century author, the emotions of guilt and shame triggered two actions. Primarily he cut the ties to his family by adding a “w” to his last name, due to the shame of being related to his great grandfather, John Hathorne, a judge at the Salem Witch Trials. These emotions arguably resulted in the creation of his best-known work, The Scarlet Letter, which vividly tells the story of a mother, Hester, and her struggle with being condemned for a sin she committed with the reverend, Dimmesdale. The novel, published in 1850, was an outlet for his ancestral guilt in addition to his daily emotions gained from experiencing life within his family. Choosing close family members, such as his wife Sophia and his daughter Una to represent major…show more content…
Their relationship was presented as perfect, yet the public knew little about Sophia’s true nature. In a newspaper article published in 1993, the author, David Reynolds, describes Sophia as “an aggressive tyrant masquerading as a domestic angel” (Sophie). This article portrays Sophia as a hidden horror in Hawthorne’s life. Additionally, she is described as independent and headstrong, which is very unusual for this time. Comparably, Hester, the protagonist of the novel, is depicted with traits similar to Sophia’s. For instance, upon first meeting Hester, her character is described as having a “wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart’” (66). Hester at first seems to be a more subdued version of Sophia but later in the novel when the custody of Pearl is threatened, Hester’s more aggressive side begins to surface. While the two women share many common traits, Sophia is described, as “tyrant” while Hester certainty isn’t. Although, it can be deduced that Hester may represent more of an idealized version of
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