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Book Review On Scarlett Letter

1582 words - 7 pages

Marcelo Neto
US History Hon
Mr. Hershaw
11/15/2012

The Scarlet Letter
By Nathanial Hawtorne

Summary

The Scarlet Letter opens with a long chapter explaining how the book came

to be written. The narrator was the surveyor of the customhouse in Salem,

Massachusetts, where the novel takes place. In the customhouse’s attic, he

finds a number of documents, among them a manuscript that was bundled with a

scarlet patch in the shape of an “A.” The manuscript detailed events that occurred

some two hundred years before the narrator’s time. When the narrator lost his

...view middle of the document...

Seven years pass and, finally, Hester realizes the evil her husband has done to

the man she loves, the father of her child. She reveal Chillingworth’s true identity to

Dimmesdale, and the two concoct a plan to leave Boston and go to England, where they

might hide from Hester’s husband and create a new life together. The minister is ultimately

unable to go through with the plan. Dimmesdale confesses his sin to the townspeople on

the scaffold that had, seven years earlier, been the scene of Hester’s public shaming. His

dying act is to throw open his shirt so that the scarlet “ A” that he has carved onto his chest

is revealed to his parishioners. Dimmesdale finds peace through confession. When

Chillingworth dies approximately a year after his rival, Dimmesdale, he leaves all his

money and property to Pearl. Hester and Pearl finally escape the community where they

have been outcasts for so many years and return to Englang. However, many years later,

Hester returns to the New England community that had been the site of her shame,

sill wearing the scarlet letter of her own will. When she dies, she is buried near

Dimmesdale, and they share a gravestone. The gravestone contains an image, described

as follows: "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules." In other words, marked on the headstone

is a scarlet letter “ A” drawn over a black background.

Character Analysis

Arthur Dimmesdale

Arthur Dimmesdale, like Hester Prynne, is an individual whose identity owes more

to external circumstances than to his innate nature. The reader is told that Dimmesdale

was a scholar of some renown at Oxford University. His past suggests that he is probably

the kind of man who would not have much natural sympathy for ordinary men and women.

However, Dimmesdale has an unusually active conscience. The fact that Hester takes all

of the blame for their shared sin goads his conscience, and his resultant mental anguish

and physical weakness open up his mind and allow him to empathize with others.

Consequently, he becomes an eloquent and emotionally powerful speaker and a

compassionate leader, and his congregation is able to receive meaningful spiritual

guidance from him. Ironically, the townspeople do not believe Dimmesdale’s protestations

of sinfulness. Given his background and his penchant for rhetorical speech, Dimmesdale’s

congregation generally interprets his sermons allegorically rather than as expressions of

any personal guilt. This drives Dimmesdale to further internalize his guilt and self-

punishment and leads to still more deterioration in his physical and spiritual condition. The

town’s idolization of him reaches new heights after his Election Day sermon, which is his

last. In his death, Dimmesdale becomes even more of an icon than he was in life. Many

believe his confession was a symbolic act, while others believe Dimmesdale’s fate was an

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