Individual Vs. Individual In The Scarlet Letter

988 Words4 Pages
Individual Vs. Individual Within The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne presents readers with a unique view of the Puritan lifestyle. The use of motif through symbolism, and internal conflict support his opinion on the ways of Puritan living. Hawthorne is pointing out that having a utopian society, as the Puritans were trying to accomplish, is impossible due to the individuals within the society. During the 17th century, Puritan Boston was attempting to accomplish a perfect society. Hester Prynne, after threatening the reputation of the colony by committing adultery and having a child in result, was punished and shunned from the rest of the community. “That scarlet letter… It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations…show more content…
But his guilt affects him so strongly, that he feels no punishment is severe enough to counter his wrongdoing. “His inward trouble drove him to practices… In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge” (Hawthorne 115) the scourge, a whip, is being used as punishment upon himself. Along with whipping himself, Dimmesdale also held “vigils… night after night” (Hawthorne 115), and he would “fast… until his knees trembled beneath him, as an act of penance” (Hawthorne 115). Unlike Hester, Dimmesdale’s mistakes weaken him but he is still an active member of the society playing his role as the reverend and delivering thought provoking sermons on sin. All the while, he is hiding something behind the fabric of his shirt “the scarlet letter… at the clergyman’s own breast” (Hawthorne 115). The scarlet letter has a negative effect on both Dimmesdale and Hester, but Hester has a child to be strong for, and Dimmesdale has guilt that is tearing away every shred of strength he has left. This proves that having individuals within a community prevents an unblemished…show more content…
When readers are introduced to Hester, she is making her way towards the scaffold, baby Pearl in her arms, and the red letter decorating her chest. Even up on the scaffold “Hester repaid them all with a bitter and disdainful smile” (Hawthorne 48), she is brave and strong even while being put up for show so that the entire colony can sneer and laugh at her. All the while, Dimmesdale never speaks a word. “Under the influence of a species of somnambulism, Mr. Dimmesdale reached the spot, where, now long since, Hester Prynne had lived through her first hour of public ignominy.” (Hawthorne 117) This is occurring during one of the lengthy vigils Arthur Dimmesdale has been holding to punish himself. He goes when the whole town is asleep because he cannot bring himself to climb up onto the scaffold during the light of day and bear the shame of his mistakes. Hester, faces the judgement on her individual self from the society with a disdainful grin. Dimmesdale’s cowardice character cannot even admit to the society the sin he, as an individual, committed. The recurring symbol of the scaffold proves that a utopian-like society cannot exist, because if it was indeed perfect there would be no need for a scaffold to publicly shame sinners in the first

More about Individual Vs. Individual In The Scarlet Letter

Open Document