The standards that the Puritan Ideal set are virtually Impossible for any human to attain. Part of the ideal was that they believed that man only existed for the Glory of God and to do only His will in effort to obtain future happiness. Religion governed the community and all aspects of life in these communities. Since the ideal was almost impossible to attain, society was fraught with sin.
Hawthorne addresses sin and transformation through his characters Hester Prone and Reverend Arthur Timescale.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the Puritan setting to discuss the human toll of such lofty and Intolerant Ideals. The concept of Individual freedom plays a large role in the development of the main character in The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prone, one of the main characters, is a shining example of the transformation that individual freedom can produce In a person. Initially, Hester is depicted as a proud woman who does not conform to the Puritan ideal.
The reader is first introduced to her Individuality when, “she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at ere townspeople and 36-37).
Hester accepts her destiny and her transformation begins after she is sent to live in the outskirts of town. In order support herself and her daughter, Hester takes up sewing and sells the clothing she makes in the town. However, she uses almost all of her free time to make clothing for the poor.
Over time, she continues to help the poor and sick and spends much time advising other women in her town. Her strength shows that the letter, “A” which originally meant “adulterer”, now means “able”. “They said that It meant Able; so strong was Hester Prone, with a woman’s strength. (Hawthorne 1 11). Anne Broadsheet is also a prime example of individual freedom. During Breadbasket’s life, women were expected to sew and to stay at home and were not encouraged to obtain a proper education. However, Broadsheet was able to pursue her education and wrote poems and other works.
In Breadbasket’s poem “The Prologue”, she understands that women will never be equal to men In her time, but quietly requests some acknowledgement that women have a place In society and deserve respect “Preeminence in all and each is yours: / Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours. ” (Broadsheet 41-42). By keeping her request simple and humble, Ann Broadsheet is more likely to make headway with women’s rights. Similarly, Hester Prone spent several years quietly helping the poor and over time she gained some respect and acceptance. Neither woman demanded respect or change, they both were humble In their actions and requests.
Symbols play large roles In The Scarlet Letter. Pearl Is a symbol Hester sin. Everyday, in the earlier parts of the book, Hester glances at Pearl and sees the mistakes that she made, “Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world. An imp of evil emblem and product of sin . “(Hawthorne 64). Pearl’s symbolism transforms during the course of the novel and changes into a symbol of existence. Gradually, Hester accepts her fate and gains strength because of the fact that she must live for used Pearl to convey the Puritan ideal that youthful innocence is much more valuable than educated sophistication.
Many times Hester worries about Pearl because she is not the most obedient child and has a strong streak of independence. Cotton Matter Nas a minister in Boston, the setting of The Scarlet Letter. He was also a pamphleteer and one of his pieces was “The Duties of Children to Their Parents”. This piece is interpreted with an over arching theme of obedience, a major Puritan deal, which clashes with Pearl’s character. Pearl does not obey Hester at times and throws many temper tantrums. Pearl clashes with the Puritan ideals of the time during the novel, The Scarlet Letter.
However, in the end of the novel, in spite of her disobedient childhood, Pearl becomes a wealthy woman and supports her mother “ho has returned to Boston. Pastors of the Puritan community are looked upon for guidance and assistance in living a spiritual Christian life. In The Scarlet Letter, Rev. Arthur Timescale was one of the most respected men. In the novel, Timescale had relations with Hester, but never confessed to his sin. Timescale gave Hester the opportunity to name him as Pearl’s father, yet Hester continued to refuse to speak and kept his identity a secret. L will not speak! ‘ answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this ‘Ice, which she too surely recognized. ” (Hawthorne 47). The Reverend could not live Ninth his guilt and he rotted away figuratively and literally. Eventually, he dies from the stress of the guilt that he has to endure. Timescale is a character that also does not follow the Puritan ideals of his time. Pastors were supposed to seek cleanliness of the heart and be free of sin. But by having sexual relations with Hester, he became tainted with sin and guilt, which ate away at his soul.
Arthur Timescale is an example of a man in need of God’s love in the face of unbearable sin. Poet Edward Tailor’s Puritan ideal, set forth in “Meditation 1”, speaks to the conflict of God’s love and man’s sin. Like Arthur, Taylor was born in England, gained respect for his theology, and migrated to the colonies. In “Meditation 1”, Taylor wrote of God’s infinite love for man even though man was born into sin. “What Love is this f thin, that Cannot bee/Len thin Infinity’. (Taylor 1-2). Timescale was a man plagued by his sin and it ate away at his mind, soul and body.
Taylor believed that DOD took care of man’s sin through his gift of Jesus and his blood poured out for all. ‘That there our Evans might through thy Person bleed quench those flames, that else would on us feed. ” (Taylor 11-12). Although Timescale did not lead a pure life, he was ultimately able to confess his sin and accept God’s unconditional love in the end. The Puritan ideal and its intolerant standards exacted a toll that ruined many lives in The Scarlet Letter. In a blatant affront to these ideals, Hester Prone and the Reverend Arthur Timescale have a disastrous affair with significant symbols of their sin.
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