The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  1. 1. The Scarlet Letter (A) -Nathaniel Hawthorne Heenaba Zala Dept. of English M. K. Bhavnagar University
  2. 2. Characters: • Hester Prynne • Pearl • Roger Chillingworth • Arthur Dimmesdale • Governor Bellingham • Mistress Hibbins • John Wilson • Unnamed narrator
  3. 3. Background: • Hawthorne born July 4, 1804 in Salem • English Heritage (Elizabethan Age) • 1650-1570: Early Colonial period- Puritan writings, no distinctive American literature • 1750-1800: Later Colonial period- Age of Reason/Enlightenment (Neoclassicism, Rationalism) • 1800-1850: American Renaissance/ Romanticism- slave narratives, inner feelings, the burden of a Puritan past, the rejection of Neoclassicism
  4. 4. • Subdivision of Romanticism: Gothic literature • Supernatural elements • Double motifs (good and evil in characters) • Dark forest • Depression • Salem witch trial: • The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil's magic—and 20 were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.
  5. 5. • Several centuries ago, many practicing Christians, and those of other religions, had a strong belief that the Devil could give certain people known as witches the power to harm others in return for their loyalty. A "witchcraft craze" rippled through Europe from the 1300s to the end of the 1600s. Tens of thousands of supposed witches—mostly women—were executed. Though the Salem trials came on just as the European craze was winding down, local circumstances explain their onset.
  6. 6. • In 1689, English rulers William and Mary started a war with France in the American colonies. Known as King William's War to colonists, migration, rivalry for wealth • Reverend Samuel Parris: Salem Village's first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked because of his rigid ways and greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work of the Devil.
  7. 7. • In January of 1692, Reverend Parris' daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having "fits." They screamed, threw things, uttered peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions, and a local doctor blamed the supernatural. Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris' Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman.
  8. 8. • Magistrates even questioned Sarah Good's 4-year- old daughter, Dorothy, and her timid answers were construed as a confession. • The first person hanged on. (an elderly woman)
  9. 9. Themes: • Puritan morality v. Passion and individualism • Self-trust v. accommodation to authority • Conventional v. unconventional gender roles • Guilt: sense of guilt forced by puritanical heritage/society • The penalties of isolation/ isolation because of self-cause and societal cause • Patriarchal power • Belief in fate/free will • Impossibility of earthly perfection • Discourse on Sin
  10. 10. • Torment of society and tortured life of a woman • “Goodwives,” said a hard-featured dame of fifty, “I’ll tell ye a piece of my mind. It would be greatly for the public behoof, if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne. What think ye, gossips? If the hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worshipful magistrates have awarded? Marry, I trow not!”
  11. 11. • “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!” • The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance, on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.
  12. 12. • “Come along, Madam Hester, and show your scarlet letter in the market-place!” • The novel is an area of human experience • “I pray you, good Sir,” said he, “who is this woman?—and wherefore is she here set up to public shame?” • “You must needs be a stranger in this region, friend,” answered the townsman, looking curiously at the questioner and his savage companion; “else you would surely have heard of Mistress Hester Prynne, and her evil doings. She hath raised a great scandal, I promise you, in godly Master Dimmesdale’s church.”
  13. 13. • “You say truly,” replied the other. “I am a stranger, and have been a wanderer, sorely against my will. I have met with grievous mishaps by sea and land, and have been long held in bonds among the heathen- folk, to the southward; and am now brought hither by this Indian, to be redeemed out of my captivity. Will it please you, therefore, to tell me of Hester Prynne’s,—have I her name rightly?—of this woman’s offences, and what has brought her to yonder scaffold?” • When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips.
  14. 14. • The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward. “Hester Prynne,” said he, leaning over the balcony, and looking down stedfastly into her eyes, “thou hearest what this good man says, and seest the accountability under which I labor. If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life.
  15. 15. • What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him—yea, compel him, as it were—to add hypocrisy to sin? Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee, and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him—who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself—the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!” • “Never!” replied Hester Prynne, looking, not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman. “It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!”
  16. 16. • “Speak, woman!” said another voice, coldly and sternly, proceeding from the crowd about the scaffold. “Speak; and give your child a father!” • “I will not speak!” answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this voice, which she too surely recognized. “And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one!” • Hawthrone, here, talks about the culture, and the privileged group here is the magistrate. • They define certain religious codes for people that, in appearance, seems to be to the people’s benefit but in actuality they are imposed on them.
  17. 17. • So people are not ‘individuals’ but they are ‘social individuals’. • Puritan culture knows that individuality is gone consciousness is gone too. • people change to subjects and become like the products of a society that runs everything based on appearance to bind the members together and hide the truth. • The novel is an expression of the conflict in the mind and heart of a character that gains a new identity by violating the codes and creates her own religion and rules of nature.
  18. 18. • the motif of appearance–versus-reality occurs in binary sets of: • Puritan Culture / Individual; Arthur Dimmesdale / Hester Prynne; Religion/ Love; the result of which is the creation of such coherence to run the final theme throughout the novel so that new lights are shed on the appearance-versus-reality technique employed by both the society to rule and keep as it is, and the individual to transform and construct anew. • community standards glorified by ministers, and individual values setting forth the primacy of class over individuality.
  19. 19. • In Hawthorne's New England every aspect of life is covered by laws haunting its people's imagination, putting on pious faces carrying some sort of guilt and, at home, they remove the unreal cover just to enjoy a moment's relief with real thoughts and feelings. • The conflict between a free and spirited nature and a convention-based materialistic society is not new. • In appearance the Puritan Culture stresses human nature common to all its members while in reality each individual is a unique self with personal desires to be fulfilled. • Apparently the government injects the idea of union into the veins of people so much so even a slight movement against the grain may be regarded as taboo
  20. 20. • Strict puritan codes are imposed on people and it’s difficult to distinguish between right and wrong, between appearance and reality. • People believe in the righteousness of the system and lose the power to decide for themselves. • Such situation creates ‘moral chaos’. • If one dares “stand out from society…(they) are often crushed by the system.” • Hester and Dimmesdale are caught in similar situation. • No hope for the reconciliation between puritan consciousness and natural instinct attributed to the self
  21. 21. • Hegemony in puritan society- hegemony- a system of meanings and values- taken for granted by people- as real- difficult to move • Hester and Dimmesdale violate the sense of absolute which is taken for granted by the society • Louis Althusser, a French Marxist, has introduced RSA (Repressive State Apparatus) and ISA (Ideological State Apparatus).
  22. 22. • Repressive State Apparatus: • functions by violence • functions first by repression then by ideology • secured by its unified and centralized organization under the leadership of classes in power • Ideological State Apparatus: • Functions by ideology • Functions first by ideology then by repression. • secured by the ruling ideology, the ideology of the ruling class
  23. 23. Ideology: • Ideology-"a system of the ideas and representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, according to the case) which dominate the mind of a man or a social group“ • Ideology is eternal. • "Ideology is a 'Representation' of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence.” • Ideology constitutes individual as subjects. • People lose their freedom to feel, think, decide and act.
  24. 24. • The look from the authorities on individuals then becomes downward and we see them standing in a balcony above where Hester the symbol of individuality is located – the scaffold. • We are faced with a crowd. The crowd represents the Puritan society. • The ruling class well aware of what has been put in the heart and mind of the crowd uses ‘ideological apparatuses’ to legally constitute laws for people, and ideology represents "a way of legitimating the power of the ruling class in society.”
  25. 25. • By wearing the letter A, Hester loses her individuality and ironically adopts a new real one that stands against the apparent one just to sharpen the gap between what she really is and what she seems to be. • As the "roses" are set against the "iron doors," the whole forest is put in opposition to the Market Place where everyone is having their false faces on. • It is in the forest – source of evil from Puritans' point of view – that people are free to be themselves.
  26. 26. • For the Puritans the forest is a place of evil and ironically it becomes a holy place for Hester and Dimmesdale: it is where they meet and "practice a holy feeling accompanied by beautiful and holy elements of nature.“ • In the forest Hester shapes her true and real individuality.
  27. 27. Nature: • Nature as narrator • The voice of Nature can be sympathetic, judgemental, ironic, warm, or harsh. • It may criticize, approve, question, or confirm. • Hawthorne’s use of nature displays the underlying message of his consistent theme of community • Community of man and nature • Juxtaposition of nature of mankind and nature of nature • Hester and Pearl’s isolation. They are in the lap of mother nature
  28. 28. • Nature as Pearl’s playmate • Nature as an effective vehicle to bridge a gap between both the communities • Tale of human frailty and sorrow • Nature is not a character in the novel but provides an additional perspective to understand the human dilemmas, helps to understand the human psyche • The human community is broken in the novel: macrocosm of the Puritans and microcosm of the alienated characters • Nature stands in its totality • Perfection/imperfection in nature-human nature imperfect
  29. 29. • The forest, wild, free atmosphere, unchristianized, lawless region to dwell • Hester cut off/cast away from her community lives in such region, separated from civilization • The opposite image of Wordsworth’s Lucy who died unknown • Hawthorne like Keats is trying to give justice to the woman who also suffers like Psyche • Hester’s wilderness of nature has not given her a chance to weep • Nature a pious community- treated as the realm of the Black Man and his followers, a habitat for the savages, and a locale for sin.
  30. 30. • Sympathy does not go with the lovers but with individuals • Hester and Pearl are forced to form a community of their own • The main focus is on the mother and the daughter only. They live in a cottage and can’t interact with human community. Nature can’t interact with the humans because it’s on the boundary • Hawthorne’s use of nature is intentional
  31. 31. • But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him. • This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history;…
  32. 32. Past-Present-Future in TSL
  33. 33. TSL: American romance • The letter- there is a deep meaning in it. It’s more worthy of interpretation. • It’s not just ‘A’ a letter but has history interwoven in it. • It tells the story of socio-politico-psycho-cultural history of a particular time and an ‘individual’ as its victim • Here an individual tries his/her ‘wings of fire’ to fly but trapped or caught in social taboos • TSL is a romance. It can be read as a love story. • ‘Love’-people were afraid to expose the feeling in public
  34. 34. • Authenticity of the novel • The Custom house: this chapter forms the historical background of the novel. • The Custom house accounts the origin of his fictitious world • Pun on ‘custom’ • The reader has to pass through the ‘room’ before entering in the story of the letter ‘A’. • The Custom House demonstrates and reconstructs the history. • Double past of Hawthorne • Private and public side of human identity
  35. 35. • The discovery of letter ‘A’ in Custom house re-awoke his literary feelings and made him realize that neither his own past as writer not the public, historical past was dead. • The Custom House is a ‘root’ to reach the past. • Hawthorne portrays one of the most enigmatic child figures in American literature. • Pearl plays an important role more as a dynamic force of moral guardian than a static symbol of sin in the plot. • A link between her mother and father and she may create confusion in our mind.
  36. 36. • In [Pearl] was visible the tie that united them. She had been offered to the world, these seven years past, as the living hieroglyphic, in which was revealed the secret they so darkly sought to hide, — all written in this symbol, — all plainly manifest, — had there been a prophet or magician skilled to read the character of flame!‘ (TSL 296) • Pearl is a scarlet letter in another form-endowed with life • Hester says, she is ―the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life!‖ and ―the emblem of her guilt and torture‖ (TSL 204- 205). On the other hand, she serves as ―the connecting link‖ (TSL 251) and ―an electric chain‖ (TSL 250) between Hester and Dimmesdale.
  37. 37. • Hawthorne can therefore prophesy their salvation through his comment on Pearl: • “And Pearl was the oneness of their being. Be the foregone evil what it might, how could they doubt that their earthly lives and future destinies were conjoined, when they beheld at once the material union, and the spiritual idea, in whom they met, and were to dwell immortally together?” (TSL 296) • Her instinct for truth- her unconscious awareness of her blood relation
  38. 38. • “When she is in nature, ―the mother-forest, and these wild things which it nourished, all recognized a kindred wildness in the human child‖ (TSL 295). This ―wildness,‖ however, is not the wilderness of savagery but the wilderness of innocence, just like the state of prelapsarian innocence in Adam and Eve. So Hawthorne says of Pearl, ―The infant was worthy to have been brought forth in Eden‖ (TSL 194), and records the rumor that even a wolf in the forest, responsive to her primitive innocence, ―came up, and smelt of Pearl‘s robe, and offered his savage head to be patted by her hand” (TSL 294-295).
  39. 39. • Hawthorne stresses the moral rather than the biological importance to Pearl of her human origin: • “The child could not be made amenable to rules. In giving her existence, a great law had been broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder…The mother‘s impassioned state had been the medium through which were transmitted to the unborn infant the rays of its moral life: and, however white and clear originally, they had taken the deep stains of crimson and gold, the fiery luster, the black shadow, and the untempered light of the intervening substance.”(TSL 195-196)
  40. 40. • Future perfect or imperfect? • Hawthorne’s creation of two central characters: Hester and Dimmesdale • Hester as prophet • Hester is not treated as an individual, a common human being but as a ‘symbol’ • Authority once defined Hester as an Adulteress • People defined her not by the static reductiveness of a noun, but by an adjective, not an identity • Authorities as guardians “of the public morals” are slow at redefining the sign. • It is “the people” who incorporate Hester, a person not a symbol, into the community:
  41. 41. • “Our Hester- the town’s own Hester” • Hester may accept it or she may not… • Two different perspectives- the society sees Hester and Hester’s perspective for society. • Hester’s is an individual’s ideology. That’s why it’s difficult it understand accept and digest. • As readers we may not like Hester-a character specially a woman breaking the boundaries and deciding her own fate. • It matters little for Hester whether she is labelled as Adulteress or Able or Angle • The story has to go beyond Dimmesdale’s confession and death
  42. 42. • Pearl leaves New England • For Hester, neither death nor escape are real options. • Pearl is just a symbol in the society(limited status) used by people only. She can escape from there and become fully human, a woman in the world. • Pearl has no historical ties with New England. She has her choice. She doesn’t stay in the novel, she leaves. • Pearl’s existence is independent. When the shackles of society are destroyed she is free. • Hester returns. She has to. Her sin lies in New England.
  43. 43. • “Her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil…The chain that bound her here was of iron links…but never could be broken.”(186) • “Whence she dated the hour of her life of ignominy…there was a sense within her…that her whole orb of life, both before and after, was connected with this spot, as with the one point that gave it unity.”(328) • Hester chooses to return to New England to live the ethical life: “But there was a more real life for Hester Prynne, here, in New England, than in that unknown region where Pearl had found a home. Here had been her sin; here her sorrow; and here was yet to be her penitence”(344).
  44. 44. • Nina Baym writes about Hester’s return. It’s disappointing and even surprising. • “Frailty, thy name is WOMAN.” • “We are the people who turn the world upside down.” -Mother Ann • The Second Coming: To be without sin, shame and sorrow is to be more than human. • Hester prophesizes a world when there will be no more marrying and giving in marriage. • Defining sexual relationship/ sexual politics • A moment of reconciliation • Hawthorne’s ideology seems entirely wrong.
  45. 45. • His own frustration in life • The letter A- is a dead letter. • The novel takes past, present and future into consideration. The future is presented as something that we have to struggle to make – a making based on desire corrected by our perspectives on the past.
  46. 46. Psychoanalytical look at ‘Shame’: • Freud's brief consideration of shame seems to be connected to his early attention to narcissism, self- regard and the ego ideal. The ego ideal here was a structure created by the internalization of cultural values, idealized parental representations, and moral precepts to guide the actions and contours of the self. • In "On Narcissism" (1914), shame became for Freud a defense rather than an interpersonal subjective experience (a reaction formation against exhibitionistic/sexual drives).
  47. 47. • Moving from his conception of instincts, he discussed an agency of the mind that was to be "conscience," and to function as a watch dog to the ego exerting behavioral and cognitive control over the drives. This agency he called the ego ideal or ideal ego was to be the forerunner of the super ego in his structural model. • Freud suggested that the "ideal ego" was invested with narcissism lost from the sense of original perfection emanating from the infantile ego and determines the subjective sense of self-respect (i.e., self-regard, and self-esteem).
  48. 48. • Freud explicitly related the ego ideal to self-regard and to its dependence on narcissistic libido. The inability to love, to invest in an object, lowered self- regard and lead to feelings of inferiority. • Freud equated feelings of inferiority with the functions of the ego ideal. Freud ended his essay with a discussion of object love as a means of rediscovering lost narcissism through narcissistic idealization of, and investment in, the libidinal object. • A reflection of feeling of inferiority
  49. 49. Shame conflicts and tragedy in TSL: • At the close of the novel Dimmesdale gives his most inspiring sermon and confesses his sin. • The central issue in the novel is the scarlet letter ‘A’. The ‘A’ embroidered in red color with golden threads on Hester’s bosom which is visible and an invisible ‘A’ on Dimmesdale’s chest. • After the confession Dimmesdale dies. • Dimmesdale is ambiguous. The cause is unknown. His death is left open-half seen, half- defined. • It is left to the imagination of the reader.
  50. 50. • What makes Dimmesdale’s shame so unbearable? What constitutes “unbearability” ? • An individual’s reaction, capacity to bear pain • Shame – a reaction, a defense against wrong feelings. • An individual feels helpless in the face of intensity of feelings, or being flooded by emotions which one can not understand. • Shameful ego-ideal conflict, the fear generates shame • A threat to the ego ideals and to the self-reliance. • The color scarlet symbolizes blood, death, child birth and life.
  51. 51. • The worlds of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale are cold, dim, hateful, and lifeless, as their names suggest. • Dimmesdale never comes forward as a father of Pearl. Hester wears ‘A’ and looks at Pearl as life given the ‘A’, to her shame. • Dimmesdale has a conflict with his superego • Hester’s “A” can be associated with external, social condemnation & Dimmesdale’s condemnation is internal. • Hester’s shame, (social individual) • “…But, in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom.”
  52. 52. • Her daughter, her shield, Pearl- precious • Paradoxically, the scarlet letter defines a protective boundary between her and the world. • Dimmesdale’s shame • “a startled, a half-frightened look—as of a being who felt himself quite astray and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion of his own” (p. 66). • Helen Merrell Lynd observes that in The Scarlet Letter “the deepest shame is not shame in the eyes of others but weakness in one’s own eyes.” • Dimmesdale shame is unalterable, inexpressible, and unbearable
  53. 53. • Dimmesdale’s shame, silent and devastating, sears deep into the heart of his being. • Pearl three questions: “What does the letter mean, mother?—and why dost thou wear it?—and why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?” (p. 182). • Dimmesdale says to Hester, “Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is after the torment of seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am! Had I one friend, or were it my worst enemy, to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby. Even…
  54. 54. • thus much of truth would save me! But now all is falsehood!—all emptiness!—all death!” (p. 192). • “Good Master Dimmesdale,” said he, “the responsibility of this woman’s soul lies greatly with you. It behooves you, therefore, to exhort her to repentance, and to confession, as a proof and consequence thereof.” • Dimmesdale feels falsehood, emptiness, and death because his selfhood is profoundly threatened and he is unable to make connections with anyone. • Conrad speaks of “moral solitude,” shame and emptiness that strangle the life of the self in Under Western Eyes (1911).
  55. 55. • Conrad tells us. In a reflective aside he continues: “Who knows what true loneliness is—not the conventional word, but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or illusion. Now and then a fatal conjunction of events may lift the veil for an instant. For an instant only. No human being could bear a steady view of moral solitude without going mad” (pp. 30–31). • Hester can show off her “burden of ignominy” to the world; by contrast, the minister can reveal nothing but “the hollow mockery of his good name!” (p. 195).
  56. 56. • Ambiguity in the novel “Whose child is Pearl?” • Pearl’s paternity has moral and social concern. • A Puritan desire: moving directly from God- the father to a ‘male’ leader in the world • It sets a patriarchal pattern and it is accepted by all. It’s a historical continuity. Pearl, an illegitimate female child, threatens the historical continuity. • Physical evidence and spiritual realities • “Woman, transgress not beyond the limits of Heaven’s mercy!” cried the Reverend Mr. Wilson, more harshly than before. “That little babe hath been gifted with a voice, to second and confirm the counsel which thou hast heard. Speak out the name! That, and thy repentance, may avail to take the scarlet letter off thy breast.”
  57. 57. • “Never!” replied Hester Prynne, looking, not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman. “It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!” • “Speak, woman!” said another voice, coldly and sternly, proceeding from the crowd about the scaffold. “Speak; and give your child a father!” • “I will not speak!” answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this voice, which she too surely recognized. “And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one!”
  58. 58. • Hester’s sin against Chillingworth and that sin is social. • Hester’s adultery disrupts the social order and leaves Chillingworth homeless and familyless, and that’s how violates the lines of patrimonial inheritance. • It’s the origin of ‘A’. Pearl must learn the meaning of ‘A’, about her father/s. Her biological father and legal father. • Hawthorne’s views on the Puritan notion of constituting the self by the vehicle of legal, historical, and inheritance. • Skepticism and faith in the novel
  59. 59. Transcendentalism and anti- transcendentalism in TSL • Transcendentalism-a movement against John Locke’s philosophy of Sensualism • Individualism • Nature • Spiritualism • Idealism • An individual is a good member of society. • An individual is divine.
  60. 60. • Emerson’s essay Nature: • “So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ...Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.” • Reflection of human conscious • Self-reliance
  61. 61. • Democracy v/s Monarchy • Individual v/s community/authority • Nature or natural instinct v/s rigidity • Transcendentalism v/s anti-transcendentalism • Hester and Pearl’s roots, joy, freedom, in general their life is shunned by the authority. • Finding her own community Hester mocks at the Puritan culture and rigidity of the religion.
  62. 62. • Anti-transcendentalism presents itself in the form of Roger Chillingworth and in all good versus evil circumstances in the novel. The Puritan Church is also anti-transcendental in that they believe in original sin and that all men will go to Hell if they don’t completely commit themselves to the Church….American transcendentalism encompasses romantic and optimistic notions, such as love and goodness, but anti-transcendentalism includes the bleak side of romanticism.
  63. 63. • When in nature, Emerson feels like a “transparent eyeball” because he becomes one with his surroundings, as if he has turned into an invisible being that can see only beauty, and has a deeper appreciation for the wonders of it. He forgets all of the worldliness that occupied his mind and his soul is cleansed…
  64. 64. • However; transcendentalism had roots in Unitarianism, which was a branch of Christianity that did not believe in the Holy Trinity. Transcendentalists moved away from religion because they believed that the human spirit is “divine” instead of “good” like the Unitarians believed. Hester Prynne represents the transcendental aspect of the novel because she transcends organized religion and society when she has an affair with Dimmesdale.
  65. 65. • Society represents evil because the town is corrupt. The town shuns Hester and Pearl and they turn a blind eye to the real evil person in the town because that person has an influential family member. Mistress Hibbins performs witchcraft, but she doesn’t get punished and Hester does, even though her crime is less severe to the Church. Pearl suffers in town because of her mother’s sin. She may not have existed if the sin had never occurred, but none-the- less, the society shuns her and she has no friends. She acts fiendishly in return towards the townsfolk and children because they won’t accept her or her mother.