Scarlet Letter Essays

Scarlet Letter Essays-14
Between Hawthorne's earlier and his later productions there is no solution of literary continuity, but only increased growth and grasp.

Between Hawthorne's earlier and his later productions there is no solution of literary continuity, but only increased growth and grasp.

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The shorter pieces have a lyrical quality, but the longer romances express more than a mere combination of lyrics; they have a rich, multifarious life of their own.

The material is so wrought as to become incidental to something loftier and greater, for which our previous analysis of the contents of the egg had not prepared us.

We have glimpses of the heroine in the antique gentility of her English home; we see the bald brow and reverend beard of her father, and her mother's expression of heedful and anxious love; we behold the girl's own face, glowing with youthful beauty.

She meets the pale, elderly scholar, with his dim yet penetrating eyes, and the marriage, loveless on her part and folly on his, takes place; but they saw not the bale-fire of the scarlet letter blazing at the end of their path.

As the story develops, the scarlet letter becomes the dominant figure, — everything is tinged with its sinister glare.

By a ghastly miracle its semblance is reproduced upon the breast of the minister, where “God's eye beheld it! the devil knew it well, and fretted it continually with the touch of his burning finger!” — and at last, to Dimmesdale's crazed imagination, its spectre appears even in the midnight sky as if heaven itself had caught the contagion of his so zealously hidden sin.So strongly is the scarlet letter rooted in every chapter and almost every sentence of the book that bears its name.Evidently, likewise, it was a source of inspiration, suggesting new aspects and features of the truth, — a sort of witch-hazel to detect spiritual gold.Some such figurative emblem, introduced in a matter-of-fact way, but gradually invested with supernatural attributes, was one of Hawthorne's favorite devices in his stories.It burns upon its wearer's breast, it casts a lurid glow along her pathway, it isolates her among mankind, and is at the same time the mystic talisman to reveal to her the guilt hidden in other hearts.It is the Black Man's mark, and the first plaything of the infant Pearl.Between genius and every other attribute of the mind is a difference not of degree, but of kind.Every story may be viewed under two aspects: as the logical evolution of a conclusion from a premise, and as something colored and modified by the personal qualities of the author.A gloomy and energetic religious sect, pioneers in a virgin land, with the wolf and the Indian at their doors, but with memories of England in their hearts and English traditions and prejudices in their minds; weak in numbers, but strong in spirit; with no cultivation save that of the Bible and the sword; victims, moreover of a dark and bloody superstition, — such a people and scene give admirable relief and color to a tale of human frailty and sorrow.Amidst such surroundings, then, the figure of a woman stands, with the scarlet letter on her bosom.


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