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Witches in The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter BY cat Many of today’s classics are read without consulting the backgrounds that the author used to write the novel. This may then cause interpretations of a certain subject or symbol of the novel. In Nathaniel Hawthorns The Scarlet Letter’s case, this touchy subject is witchcraft. The theme of witchcraft is carefully woven into the fabric of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter. The introductory includes an appeal by the author to remove any witch’s curses on his family.

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Once he takes readers back to the Boston of the 1 ass’s, he frequently hints about the cohorts of the Black Man”, who symbolizes the devil (Hawthorne 271 ) and abides In the woods beyond the town. But If the reader understands the classical meaning of the word witchcraft such as used In the Bible and other classical works, then It Is understood that Hawthorne had something more in mind than sad cultists like Mistress Hibbing’s. The real witch of The Scarlet Letter is a far more sinister character whose personality Hawthorne uses to makes a significant statement about the nature of man.

There is little to none question that Hawthorne was aware of the Biblical and classical views of Ithaca. He has researched both the rules and lifestyles of the Puritans and the types and uses witchcraft; he would have also known of the Bible’s use of the term. The prescribed course at Bowdon College in Hawthorn’s day “included a heavy concentration in Greek and Latin” (Mellow 29). In 1821, the year Hawthorne enters college, admission requirements included knowledge of the Greek New Testament, and Greek and Latin writings made up half the curriculum until the senior year (Bradley 14-15).

Stories such as his “Tangled Tales” and “Wonder-Book for Boys ND Girls” show that Hawthorne knew The Metamorphoses, a Latin narrative poem by Ovid that chronicles the history and myths of the world (Levin 351). The Scarlet Letter itself contains at least one allusion to a story from The Metamorphoses as seen by the mention of Cadmium and the dragon’s teeth (Hawthorne The American 71). Hawthorne noted the connection between heartless evil and herb-medicine a number of times in his work including “Rapacity’s Daughter,” “Dry. Heidegger Experiment,” “The Birthmark. And his unfinished “Elixir of Life” or “Deliver Romance” (McFarland Fennel 5-7). It appears to be one of the most common motifs in his work. The view on witchcraft that Hawthorne has Is based on the Greek New Testament. However, witchcraft is not a popular subject in the Bible. In fact, it appears only once in the King James New Testament and sorcery is mentioned twice in Galatians 5:20 and Revelation 9:21 and 18:23. The Greek word used in all three cases is ‘phrasemaker’, derived from the word ‘pharmacy’ or drug, the source of the English word pharmacy and Its cognates (Boaster 227).

The standard Joined Greek- English Lexicon translates the word as “sorcery” or “magic,” but Its cognate paramours) used in Revelation 21 and 22:1 5 is translated into “mixer of poisons” as well as “magician”. The root of both words, pharmacy, literally means “poison” or “drug”(Arrant & Ignoring 861-862). A few key Old Testament passages about witches which are often associated with the Puritans such as Exodus 22:18 (“Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” – KAVA) use ‘paramours’ In the Separating – the word translated as “sorcerer” In Revelation 21 :8 and 22: 1 5.

The Greek New Testament Maggie, “magic”, when referring to other types of occult practices, like calling on purists or using curses. In English, such words are usually translated as “wizard,” ‘necromancer”, or some other appropriate word or phrase (Arrant & Ignoring 458). Because of the Greek word chosen in each case, it appears that the New Testament authors and Separating translators understands the idea of witchcraft in terms of the use of drugs or poisons. The ‘real witch’ of The Scarlet Letter can now be deduced according to the Biblical definition that Hawthorne used.

In The Scarlet Letter, who Mould be convicted of witchcraft, but Mistress Hibbing’s? She characterizes the witch f New England folklore such as readers see in “Young Goodman Brown” – a short story by Hawthorne that states that there is no hope or goodness in witchcraft Hawthorne The American 124). Typically, Hawthorne treats her ambiguously. She may be a mildly tolerated eccentric, an insane busybody, or an anti-Christian cultist. She functions in the novel as the category or accuser. She emulates her Black Man friend, the devil, who is called “the accuser” in Revelation 12:10.

The Greek word used here is normally used in a legal sense, assigned to the person bringing charges such s in the way Satan appears in the Book of Job “before God’s tribunal”(Arrant & Ignoring 424). Mistress Hibbing’s talks about the Black Man’s book, chortles over Hester sin and Pearl’s illegitimacy, but, unlike a ‘paramours’, readers have no way of knowing the association with potions or poisons. There is another character more n line with the New Testament understanding of a witch. He is associated with Simon Forman, a “philter-vendor” who poisoned a nobleman in a notorious English scandal. Bradley 93) He is seen with savage Indian priests, “powerful enchanters, often performing seemingly miraculous cures by their skill in the black art. “(Hawthorne 93) One of the authorities he refers to is Kennel Dig, British occultist and botanist. (Hawthorne 88) He is a gatherer and mixer of herbs. He uses ‘European pharmacopoeia” not Just for medicine, but to control another man emotionally and avenge himself (Hawthorne 93). He is seen gathering nightshade, dogwood, and other plants associated with magic and witchcraft. Hawthorne 126-127) This character is, of course, Roger Chlorinating. According to Galatians 5:20, ‘phrasemaker’ is a “work of the flesh. Readers can now observe that Chlorinating has turned from the spiritual to the carnal. Though of Puritan background, he confesses to Hester that he has “long forgotten” Christianity Hawthorne 119). He refuses to forgive and, therefore, denies the working of grace. He questions, if not denies, the existence of the soul, thereby denying the eternal nature of man. Clownishness’s fleshly nature, separated from the spiritual, transforms him.

He is first seen by the people of Boston as a blessing, but as time goes on they notice how his eyes flash red, and they consider him a fiend. Indeed, he loses all reason for living after Damselfly’s confession. The cleansing virtue of Damselfly’s repentance triumphs over Clownishness’s drive for revenge and control. The herbalist has become a paramours who, according to Scripture and Hawthorne, has no place in the Kingdom of God. In the Book of Acts, the apostles encounter several sorcerers or magicians.

However, one sorcerer may be of some interest to the reader of The Scarlet Letter. Acts 8:5-25 tells of Simon the Magician who is rebuked by the Apostle Peter for thinking he can buy the free gift of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture describes performing magic or sorcery as being “in the gall of bitterness. ” Similarly, Chlorinating seems to be motivated by bitterness – bitterness at Timescale for having his wife, bitterness at Hester for being unfaithful and at himself for thinking he could win the love of a young woman like Hester.

Apart from biblical ideas of witchcraft, it is also salient to have knowledge on literary allusions and classical understandings of witchcraft. Hawthorn’s allusive style may make his readers think of related figures in literature. Hawthorne compares himself to another Customs Agent, Geoffrey Chaucer (Hawthorne 24), whose ruthless physician in The Canterbury Tales cites pagan authorities and denies the existence of the soul. Other critics have pointed out the similarities between Hawthorn’s “eminent doctor of physic, from a German university” and Faust. Abysses Stein 70) Indeed, Marlowe describes his Dry. Faustus as a skilled pharmacist: “Whereby whole cities have escaped the plague, And thousand desperate maladies been erased. ” (Marlowe 21, 22) The New Testament and Separating were written in Greek. It is worth noting that the classical idea of Ithaca contemporary to these writings also emphasizes the mixing of drugs or poisons. Ovoid’s Metamorphoses, one of the classical works that Hawthorne studied, tells the audience of two witches, Made and Circe.

Made uses drugs to help Jason overcome the bulls and dragon which guarded the Golden Fleece and to rejuvenate lasso’s elderly father, Season, and tries to poison her stepson, Theses. Furthermore, she prays to Hectare, the same goddess acknowledged by Machete’s witches, and mixes a potion at least as grotesque as theirs. Made flies through most of the known world in search of herbs for her potions. Circe is seen gathering herbs in the woods (Ovid 72-79), Just like Chlorinating. Again, Just as Chlorinating is motivated by a purposeless revenge, both of Ovoid’s witches viciously torment those who love men that they love or once loved.

Euripides’ play Made includes more graphic details about the murder of Season’s bride and the father’s poisoning. Homer’s Odyssey, which was part of Bowdon College’s course of study during Hawthorn’s attendance, also tells of Circle’s potions (10. 234-406, 388-395). Even Shakespeare notes: “Made gathered the enchanted herbs/ That did renew old Season,” (The Merchant of Venice . 1 . 13-14). Though Made left Jason to marry someone else, when she hears that lasso is remarrying, she returns to wreck the wedding.

She murders their two sons and poisons the bride-to-be and her father. Similarly, Circe becomes infatuated with Claus, a minor sea god who loves the maid Scylla. In Jealousy Circe puts some herbs in Calla’s bath and turns her into a monster with six heads. Missing, presumed dead, and never claiming to have had any of Hester affection, Chlorinating likewise makes life miserable for Timescale. Like Made and Circe, he is motivated by Jealousy and revenge. His conversations with the minister torment him and his medicines seem to aggravate his patient’s symptoms.

In fact, Timescale is perfectly healthy until Chlorinating moves in with him. Chlorinating is sinister in a manner similar to these mythological witches because of their traitorous character. Chlorinating acts like a trusted friend and confidant to Timescale, but only does this to discover his wrongdoings and sins. More examples of betrayal from the two witches include when one of Media’s potions was supposed to rejuvenate the elderly uncle of Jason but she deliberately killed him instead, and Nine; in reality she was turning them into swine.

Using Chlorinating, Hawthorne makes a point about science and technology – if people exalt the material realm and deny the spirit, they become like the classical witches, heartless and manipulating. He also makes a point about the colonial witch trials – that the real witches according to the Biblical and classical understanding of the term were people like Roger Chlorinating. It may even heighten the feminist aspect of Hester Prune’s persona since was not the worst sinner nor was the sinner a woman at all, unlike most of the convicted Massachusetts witches. Most importantly, Hawthorne is interested in the human heart.

Readers can see a detached and heartless experimental horror in ‘Ethan Brand” and “Rapacity’s Daughter”, two other short stories by Hawthorne with themes of “abortive romance”(Mellow 34). Hawthorn’s notebook in 1842 contemplates a story with the unpardonable sin as “separation of intellect from the heart” (Simpson 251). Chlorinating betrays the physician-patient confidence and becomes a study in malevolence. He is not only no longer a Christian, but no longer a man. Roger Chlorinating had become a witch, a paramours like Made, suggesting he devil himself.

The Biblical and classical understanding of witchcraft as an evil, carnal practice involving the mixing of herbal drugs to gain power over others should make readers think of the actions of Roger Chlorinating. The author of The Scarlet Letter himself notes that “Old Roger Chlorinating was a striking evidence of man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only for a reasonable space of time, undertake the devil’s office” (Hawthorne 122, 123). Both in practice and in spirit, he is the real witch of The Scarlet Letter.

Cite this Witches in The Scarlet Letter

Witches in The Scarlet Letter. (2018, Feb 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/witches-in-the-scarlet-letter/

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