The Scarlet Letter: A Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the best works of fiction in history. The setting of the Novel is in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1642 and 1649. It narrates the story of Hester Prynne, who conceived a daughter after having an affair and had to struggle to create a new life of dignity and repentance.
When the Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, it became one of the first mass-produced novels in America because of the unique way of narration through multiple themes. In this post, we are going to take a deeper look at the different Scarlet Letter’s themes.
Theme of Sin
The theme of sin is evident from the start of the novel. Notably, sin in the Scarlet Letter does not just mean going against the accepted norms of religious. Rather, it also implies going against social traditions. The love act of Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne is considered adultery when Hester is caught and sentenced. However, Dimmesdale, because of his position and influence, remains free. Hester has to go through stressful isolation because of her daughter, who was born out of wedlock. For Dimmesdale, the sense of sins turns into a psychological stigma. To stay silent, he suffers from depression and severe trauma.
The Theme of Guilt
The nature of personal and public guilt is another major theme of The Scarlet Letter. The guilt from Hester’s sins and public punishment (wearing Scarlet Letter adultery in public) is devastating to her life. The public punishment and the fact that the man is not punished are even more distressing. Hester’s suffering is made worse by Dimmesdale’s silence. The affair, therefore, leaves a serious dent in how Puritan interprets morality and religion. Although the final atonement appears to mitigate Hester’s suffering, it comes too late.
Theme of Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy is one of the major themes in the Scarlet Letter. After committing the sin and being forced to wear Scarlet letter adultery as punishment, Hester realizes that most of the citizens also harbor similar sins without admitting. It is hypocritical that no citizen was without sins, but few were ready to admit it.
Governor Bellingham also provides a good case of physical metaphor for the hypocrisy theme. In the Scarlet Letter, the governor dresses luxuriously while enforcing plainness on the people under him. Besides, he shares his home with Mistress Hibbins, who claims to be a witch. It is hypocritical that the governor, a supposedly upright public figure, shares the same roof with a witch.
In the entire novel, the people of Bay Colony are hypocritical by harboring two conflicting characters. Their desire to hide one character and only show what makes them look good demonstrates how hypocritical they are.
The Theme of Identity and Society
When Hester is punished with public shame and forced to wear a badge of humiliation, one would expect her to seek any possible opportunity to leave Bay Colony. Surprisingly, she is unwilling to leave. Therefore, when Chillingworth tells her that the authorities were considering allowing her to remove the badge of shame, she was shocked. This demonstrates that Hester is committed to determining her identity instead of relying on what others thought of her.
For Hester, removing the badge of shame or running away would only acknowledge the power that society has over her. Instead, she chooses to use the Letter as a symbol of personal experiences, and indeed a character. The past is part of her, and thinking that it never happened would be living in denial. Her sins are now part of her life.
The Theme of Feminine Resilience
One of the clear moral of the Scarlet Letter is feminine resilience. The shaming act of Hester and her resilience to get through the distressful social isolation shows that Hawthorne throws his weight behind the feminine side. By projecting Hester as a lady who suffers unjustly, the Scarlet Letter criticizes and condemns the moral code of the time. It is an indication that feminism is indeed not just a myth but a reality. Hester suffered more than most ordinary men would have if put in similar situations.
The Theme of Mockery of Law
Apart from the hypocrisy, sin, and evil themes, the theme of mockery is also intriguing. Scarlet Letter impressively mocks the rule of law during Puritanism. The law does not allow women to engage in adultery, and they are severely punished when caught. But this same law does not apply for the man. After committing adultery, Hester is punished while the man, Dimmesdale, walks scot-free. And this is not all! Dimmesdale is part of the jury. It is a mockery of the law that a person who is guilty of the same sin is the one entrusted with awarding the punishment.
The Scarlet Letter Theme of Passion and Love
The Scarlet Letter is also a love story. Even as sin and punishment themes appear more evident, the entire book is a type of mystery of erotic passion. Although various agents such as law, morality, religion, and Chillingworth works hard to bring disaster to Hester and Dimmesdale, it appears that the two grow morally and spiritually stronger. But they have to undergo suffering in search of love for each other.
The intensity of Hester and Dimmesdale’s love for each other peaks in the forest conversation. Hester’s expression of love for Dimmesdale is impressive. “Dost thou live?” “Hester, hast thou found peace?” Dimmesdale asks Hester. In reply, Hester indicates, “Hast thou?” The conversation is marked by intense feelings for each other.
When Hester discloses her husband to Dimmesdale, she asks for forgiveness for revealing Chillingworth’s identity. Hester is finally ready to let her pasty go by throwing away the Scarlet Letter. The lovers craft a new strategy to escape revenge. But the strategy fails.
Identifying the Main Idea In Literature Is Easy… No More Stress!
When you are faced with the task of identifying the themes in a piece of literature, the aim is to understand the main idea. You need to look at the characters and the plot from varying angles. For example, when answering the question, what is the theme of The Scarlet Letter, you need to look at the characters from the religious, legal, spiritual, and cultural viewpoints. This will help you to see what the writer is emphasizing in a specific chapter or throughout the book.
One thing we need to bring out at this point is that picking themes from a piece of literature can be tricky. You need to practice with different books to develop the right skills. Therefore, what do you do with the assignment at hand? The answer is seeking writing help.
Notably, it is not just a lack of writing skills that can make identifying themes in a piece of literature difficult. In many cases, students in college might find assignments to identify major themes difficult because the deadline is tight or have other engagements to attend to. The best option is seeking homework help from experts. The writing firms work with expert writers who can easily tell what is the theme/s in a book and know how to present it professionally.
Whether your assignment requires you to identify themes in the Scarlet Letter or other pieces of literature, you can use this post to pick them or seek expert assistance easily.