The world in The Scarlet Letter:
Hawthorne's masterpiece The Scarlet Letter describes a story of sin and confession in the word of New England during the 17th century. In this story, Hawthorne reveals the cruelty of Puritanism which destroys heroine humanity represented by Hester Prynne.
The world of this story is miserable, which can be seen in almost every chapter. For example, in the first chapter, we can see there are many words to describe the rundown prison things: The men is in “sad-coloured garments, and grey, steeple-crowned hats”; The wooden jail is “beetle-browed and gloomy”; Almost everything are telling “a tale of human frailty and sorrow”. There are also many words to describe the local people in the second chapter. “Amongst any other population, or at a later period in the history of New England, the grim rigidity that petrified the bearded physiognomies of these good people would have augured some awful business in hand.” This sentence describes the horrible local people, which makes the literary world so sad and miserable.
However, to some extent the world in the story is added to hope. There are also a few words to describe the glittering things. In the background of misery, the brightly wild rose appeared in the first chapter manifests the birth of new hope. In the eighth chapter and the eighteenth chapter the author pays attention to the surroundings of Pearl who is approved to be the represent of hope. We can feel that it is so hard to find the peace and harmony in such miserable world where are filled with pains, oppression and persecutions.
The characters in The Scarlet Letter:
The main characters in The scarlet letter are Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Mr. Dimmesdale. According to Aristotle, character is necessary as “agent” or “performer” of the action. In this book their different characteristics are performed by their different actions. Hester Prynne loves Dimmesdale, insist of protecting her lover by her own actions. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester is surrounded by the bitterest scorn from the local people because of her new affection affairs. However, when facing the apartness, sneer and sarcasm from the people, Hester did not yield to the repressive religious morality. She is determined to challenges and combat against the traditions, trying to justify the rightness of her true love, which manifests her courage and power of resisting the unreasonable marriage system. The clergyman, Arthur Dimmesdale suffers the bitterness from his deeply mind of the conflicts between his religious beliefs and his true love. Roger Chillingworth tries his different ways to destroy the relations between Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne. He tortures them and even wants to kill Arthur Dimmesdale.
We can also analyze the characters by E. M. Forster’s character classification. E. M. Forster divides the character into two types. The one is flat character, and the other is round character. In The scarlet letter, Roger Chillingworth is a flat character. We can see that he always plays the role of pushing the story foreword with the desire of revenge and destruction, while Mr. Dimmesdale is a round character. Firstly, he hides his desire of loving Hester in front of public. Then he is afraid of being revealed in front of people. Finally, he admits he is the father of Pearl. All the changes represent his different characteristics in different stages.
How is character reconstructed from the text?
There are three opinions about character reconstruction we have remained in class. Process of nomination explains that the importance of the orders and ways in which the different characters appear in a story. In The scarlet letter, Hester Prynne appears in a different way at the beginning with the specific description of the surroundings, which draws our attention to think deeply. The story adopts the reverse order to describe the appearance of the main characters. Before Arthur Dimmesdale appears, the author takes many words to describe Hester Prynne and her miserable situation. With all the details revealed deeply, the outline of story are clear, which leaves a great impression to readers.
Different characters in different story will be reconstructed in different skills. Logical sense, repetition, similarity, contrast, and implication are always available. In The scarlet letter, for example, the author is good at using contrast and implication. We can see that there are many words to describe the actions of Hester Prynne while so many words to describe the mental activities of Arthur Dimmesdale. The contrast illustrates that the red A lives with them in different forms. Hester Prynne is the presentational “A” while Arthur Dimmesdale is the implied “A”. Pearl implicates the hope and the glittering things of the “guilty A”.
The relations between the world and the characters.
The world and the characters are integrated to serve the ideas of author in literary works. They are close to each other. As the background of literary works, the world provides the environments in which the characters appear reasonably. In The scarlet letter, as I have discussed, the world is sad and miserable when Hester Prynne appear. It is natural to illustrate the miserable fate of her, which contrasts to her perseverance to fight against the doctrines and oppression of Puritanism. As the prominent power of Puritans, Arthur Dimmesdale is suffering from the real world a lot. The world in the story drives him to be crazy so that he have no choice but to live in the edge of the real and ideal world. The struggles in his mental world reflect the complexity of the real word in this story. When Pearl comes to our sight, we always feel warm and hopeful because of the much descriptions of the bright and glittering things around her. The comfortable atmosphere contributes to the rightness of the existing of Pearl and shapes the characteristics of Pearl with a pure and kind heart. All the characters and the surroundings around them are always correspond with each other, which contributes to the unique characters, the crucial reality and the core ideas of this story.