How The Letter A Affected Various Characters In The Scarlet Letter

How The Letter A Affected Various Characters In The Scarlet Letter The letter A affected many characters in Nathaniel’s classic, The Scarlet Letter. It affected not only the main characters of the story, but also of the townspeople who would see this letter embroidered on Heater’s dress on a daily basis; and thus it would serve to re-enforce their own repulsion at the woman and her sin, and would inflate their self-righteousness further. The puritans seemed on the surface to be religious and pious, but I felt they were extremely judgmental and unforgiving, who found joy in other people’s lapses in their faith. However, this letter affected greatly the lives of Heater, her daughter Pearl, and Pearl’s father, the reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. In the story, Arthur Dimmesdale is a young eminent minister in Boston and also the father of Pearl. He is a tortured man who over the course of this story spanning seven years, suffers guilt at his sin of adultery and having to watch Heater being shunned and living in isolation, raising the product of their sin alone.

He constantly places his hand over his hearth when agitated, which to me symbolized the letter A not only embroidered on his lover’s gown, but seemingly embroidered over his own heart. His health is quite bad, and ironically, it is thanks to Roger Chillingworth’s (Heater’s husband) potions that he is able to stay alive. When Chillingsworth earns a reputation of being a good physicians, he helps maintain Dimmesdale’s health but discovers what Dimmesdale’s identity, and thus begins torturing and intending to kill this young minister already ravaged by his sin, deteriorating every time he sees the “A” that has become a part of Heater. By chapter 11, his guilt has reached it peak, as Hawthorne writes It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him! Itwas his genuine impulse to adore the truth, and to reckon all things shadow-like, and utterly devoid of weight or value, that had not its divine essence as life within their life. (page 124) At the end of the story, he finally admits to being Pearl’s father and reveals that he has a scarlet letter branded into his own flesh .

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The times Heater was placed on the scaffold and publicly denounced for her sin, she faced this alone. Dimmsdale suffered through this, too frightened and ashamed to admit his own responsibility. Dimmesdale ascended the scaffold times before, but not in the sight of the public. In the end,Dimmesdale climbed the scaffold because his heart and his morale would no longer allow him to remain in secret with his sanity. Dimmesdale dies upon the scaffold while holding Ester’s hand, and when Pearl Kisses her father at the end of the story, to me this represents her destroying the bitter pall this simple letter had over their lives. “Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief in which the wild infant bore a part had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor for every do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.

Toward her mother too, Pearls errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled”. (P. 226) Pearls life was also affected by the letter A, as she was the product of the adultery, and the reminder to the town of the parent’s sin. She stands on the scaffold facing the town with her mother as an infant, and with her face pressed against the scarlet A, it seems she is branded from that moment on. She grows up to be a very wild and undisciplined child, perhaps because she is aware of the circumstances of her birth, and the fact they have no contact with the outside world, living in isolation outside of the town.

Pearl is punished from birth becoming a true innocent victim of circumstance. This letter A has caused Pearl to live in isolation away from other children, Pearl is characterized as a living version of the scarlet letter. She constantly causes her mother and Dimmesdale torment and anguish throughout the novel. Pearl is described as extremely beautiful, but lacking certain Christian qualities. It is ironic that after Arthur Dimmesdale dies, Pearl becomes a normal child and eventually marries.

It is almost that kiss she gives to her father not only frees his soul, but frees her to live the normal life she deserves as well. It is also sad that the burden Pearl bore during her childhood is that she is actually her father’s conscience. What is also symbolic in this book, is that three times in this book, Pearls begs her father to publicly announce he is her father, yet three times she is denied Wilt thou stand here with my mother and me, to-morrow noontide?( p.133) Not then, Pearl, but another time. At the great judgment day! (p.133). At Dimmesdale’s death, the scarlet letter looses its control over her and her mother. Hester was also a victim of the this letter A.

She is young woman who seems to have much spirit and is strong in her own individuality, which goes against the puritan way. What was sad was the fact that when she committed this indiscretion, she truly believed her husband was dead. And when publicly accused of this sin that obviously involves two people, she bravely accepts full responsibility, and it is then the letter A seemed to be a badge of courage for her. When pressured by Mr. Wilson to reveal the father of the child in her arms, she responds, looking in fact into the baby’s father’s eyes, Never! It is too deeply branded.

Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine. .. I will not speak (p. 57). She also states her child will not know her true father, stating “my child must seek a heavenly father, she will never know an earthly one.” The letter itself is a bright red color, sewn with gold thread, a rather elegant letter which further goes against the puritan way.

It becomes a part of Hester, and who she is; one who will protect the lover who had brought her happiness for a time, yet who has destroyed her integrity and her reputation in the eyes of her town. The cloth letter A that begins its own destiny at the breast of Hester Prynne, becomes a soft rest for her baby’s face, and that same letter ends up etched on the chest of her lover, entwining all of their lives, and yet in the end, by Esther, Pearl and Dimmesdale embracing and accepting this letter as becoming a part of them, it makes them a tragic family of sorts, and it frees them. Bibliography Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Book Reports.


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