The Scarlet Letter Dialectical Journal

Table of Content

The passage from the Scarlet Letter, written by Hawthorne, illustrates the door of the Jail and a rose bush beside it. Hawthorne explains that the door, much like anything associated with crime, never had a youthful phase. Meanwhile, the rose bush in June adorns delicate gems, which one might imagine offer fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner. In my interpretation, this scene symbolizes Hester’s experience: on one hand, the harsh judgment of the Puritans represented by the old door, and on the other hand, the acceptance she encounters from certain individuals along her journey, as represented by the rose bush.

An Indian dressed in his traditional clothing was present, but the Native Americans were not uncommon visitors to the English settlements during that time period” (Hawthorne 56). The term “Red men” signifies the era and the way Native Americans were treated during that time. The Puritans had recently come to the New World, and they used derogatory language to describe unfamiliar things. This quotation provides context about the historical period. “like a man who primarily focuses on his inner thoughts and assigns little significance to external matters unless they relate to something within his mind” (56).

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The quote portrays the moment Hester’s husband first sees her wearing the scarlet letter. Instead of leaving it up to the reader to judge his character through his actions towards others, Hawthorne immediately provides a unique description of him. This description suggests that Chillingworth is not a typical Puritan and displays a more open-minded nature. Hawthorne vividly describes the dramatic change in Chillingworth’s expression, with a writhing horror resembling a swiftly gliding snake. His face darkens as he experiences some intense emotion (56).

The use of words like “writhing,” “horror,” “twisted,” and “darkened” creates an eerie and gloomy atmosphere in this excerpt. It also provides vivid descriptions and insights into Chlorinating’s feelings when he realizes that the person on the pillory is his wife. The quote, “he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips” (57), reinforces my perception of Chlorinating as a reserved and non-confrontational individual who remains composed and rational in difficult situations. This is the first time I was able to assess his character based on his actions. The line, “Her husband may be at the bottom of the sea” (58), conveys Hester’s speculation about Chlorinating’s fate as he sent her to the New World before him. It suggests that he might have died, both literally and metaphorically because of Hester’s adultery. This possibility has left him feeling down or even depressed, like sinking to the bottom of the sea. Lastly, the sentence, “Thus she will be a living sermon against sin until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her tombstone” (58), refers to how Hester will serve as a constant reminder of sin until her death when her punishment will forever memorialize on her tombstone.

The severity of Hester’s crime is demonstrated by this quote. The letter, symbolizing her shame, will be with her until her death. The passage describes how she meets someone, with the sun blazing down on her face, exposing the scarlet letter on her chest, and holding her sin-born infant in her arms (59). Though the story is not narrated in the first person, it creates a tone of shame that expresses Hester’s emotions as if she were telling the story herself and describing her feelings using words like “shame,” “infamy,” and “sin-born.”
Another passage provides a very detailed depiction of a character, which I perceive as existentialism, a novel way of thinking during the romantic period. It focuses on the physical attributes that exist in the real world, such as the person having a commanding presence with a white, towering forehead; large, melancholic brown eyes; and a mouth that tends to be stern unless forcibly compressed (62).
Lastly, Hester still holds onto her moral values as she declares that her child must seek a heavenly father since she shall never know an earthly one (63). This shows her desire for her child to follow the Puritan religion.

It is possible that Hester had a negative encounter with her father before and wants to protect her child from experiencing the same. Additionally, involving the child’s father in their life might create more complications. It is worth noting that there is no record of Hester being requested to use her embroidery skills to make a wedding veil for a blushing bride. This particular exception emphasizes society’s strong disapproval of Hester’s sin. Personally, I have a strong dislike for the Puritan society.

They are all aware of Hester’s extraordinary skill with her needle and thread, but somehow everything she touches becomes cursed and tainted. Despite this, they all pretend as if they have never committed any sins themselves. “If truth were universally known, a scarlet letter would be displayed on many a chest…” (80). Hester Prynne is somewhat of a role model to me. I admire her ability to acknowledge her sin and accept the consequences. Surely, during the Puritan era, she was not the only one who had an affair or committed other sins. Everyone sins on a daily basis, so technically speaking, everyone should bear their own form of scarlet letter.

In my viewpoint, Hester surpasses everyone else, as depicted by the comparison to the eerie fire gleams emanating from Banyan’s terrifying doorway on the hillside and trembling on the faces of pilgrims. This description refers to Chillingworth. The writer employs a malevolent tone with words like “ghastly” and “awful.” I always sensed an evil aura around him, perhaps merely circumstantial, implying that he would be furious and seeking revenge on the man who had an affair with his wife. He even demanded that Hester reveal the identity of the other man. They claimed it implied Arthur Dimmesdale, suggesting Hester’s tremendous strength as a woman. I found this book overall to have a somewhat unusual feminist vibe, which seemed perplexing given the time period. Nevertheless, it is likely that feminism truly emerged during the romantic era, when individuals began contemplating and questioning the world. In my opinion, the moral of the story is that Hester turns adversity into opportunity. I believe I grasped this concept from the start, but this quote reassured me. “What could it else be, mother? And why dost thou wear it?” Pearl, who remains innocent throughout the entire book, asks about the meaning of the scarlet letter and why her mother wears it. When Pearl was almost taken away from Hester, Chillingworth argued that she still serves as a reminder of Hester’s sin, which is indeed true. Pearl’s curiosity about her mother’s differences forces Hester to confront her own transgressions.Despite the strong bond between Hester and Pearl, who are both somewhat outcasts, the speaker expresses bitterness and heartache over the contrast between their public image and their true selves. The speaker even claims that Satan finds amusement in this contrast. (174)

Throughout the entire book, I truly feel sorry for Timescale. Unfortunately, a complicated situation arises involving Timescale, Hester, and Chlorinating, and each of them handles it differently. Hester, however, seems to fare well in the end because she is able to admit her sin. Although public repentance has its drawbacks, she is able to move on with her life. On the other hand, Timescale exhibits cognitive dissonance in this quote as a result of his secret. His actions contradict his words and beliefs. Furthermore, Timescale does not gain the same experience and knowledge as Hester. She had freely ventured into a moral wilderness, with no rules or guidance. Her intellect and heart found solace in deserted places that most women would not dare to enter. The scarlet letter became her ticket to forbidden territories. Shame, despair, and solitude were her stern and untamed teachers who made her strong but also led her astray” (181). In my interpretation, the Bible suggests that God wanted his human creations to remain ignorant and foolish, although this viewpoint can be debated.

Curiosity, as seen in the story of Adam and Eve, leads to the sin of eating the apple and gaining knowledge. This idea is also reflected in various sayings such as “Curiosity killed the cat,” “knowledge is power,” and “ignorance is bliss.” Hester’s curiosity causes trouble for her but also sets her apart from other women by giving her unique qualities. In the novel, her curiosity is described as a subtle disease that gradually erodes her character. It becomes impossible for anyone to maintain two personas, internal and external, without eventually becoming confused about their true self (Hawthorne 195).

Although the book reflects many morals derived from Puritanism, one quote emphasizes a universal moral that remains relevant today: the power of conscience and the negative consequences of keeping secrets. This is an experience that can drive individuals to madness in contemporary society, and Hawthorne was among the first writers to express such a feeling. Nowadays, it is commonly known as cognitive dissonance. “Mother,” she asked, “was that the same minister who kissed me by the brook?” “Hush, my dear little Pearl!” her mother whispered. “We shouldn’t always discuss publicly what happens to us in the forest” (217).

Nature played a significant role during the romantic period as it was used to highlight the contrast between freedom and authority. In this novel, the purpose of nature is to showcase the absence of rules, which is evident when Hester and Pearl visit the forest. Although someone is aware of their presence in the forest, Hester’s sin is not primarily related to her relationship with Reverend Mr. Timescale. On the day when Hester first wore her shameful badge, the Reverend began to punish himself as a form of penance, which he later continued through various unsuccessful methods (233).

Timescale endured the greatest consequences in this circumstance. Nonetheless, I also empathize with him. Hester demonstrated a remarkable level of courage and even tried to stand by his side, but ultimately he gave in to the pressure. What is fascinating is that he didn’t yield to the pressure from the Lord, as the Puritans supposedly fervently embraced, but instead succumbed to the pressures of actuality. His difficulties only commenced when others became aware of the scarlet letter, despite the belief that God had been aware all along.

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The Scarlet Letter Dialectical Journal. (2018, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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