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Juxtaposing the Dark and Light.

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Introduction

Juxtaposing the Dark and Light The essence of the hypocritical, paradoxical, intolerant and deeply religious American Puritanical society is ever omnipresent in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. His brilliant use of the Puritan society surpasses the setting and is molded into the demeanor of his characters and therefore highlights the intricacies of his theme. The rigid Puritan moral and social code reverberates throughout all aspects of the novel and Hawthorne allows The Scarlet Letter to be interpreted as a story of sins and sinners; where sin and its punishment are eternal and immutable. His dark and gloomy tone seen throughout The Scarlet Letter seems to adhere to this way of thinking. But Nathaniel Hawthorne through his all-encompassing conflict between the restriction and piety of Puritan society and the desires and powers of individual underscores his bleak tone with a lighter one, which accentuates hope and romanticism. Although Nathaniel Hawthorne profoundly depicts Hester Prynne as a sinner and recluse in the Puritan society through his ominous tone, he has also been able to glorify Hester's romanticism through an exultant tone - therefore bringing light into the eternal damnation that shrouds Hester. ...read more.

Middle

"Love, whether newly-born, or aroused from a death-like slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world. Had the forest still kept its gloom, it would have been bright in Hester's eyes, and bright in Arthur Dimmesdale's!" (138) Here the deep force, which moves throughout the story, is at last called by its proper name - not as Hawthorne's dark tone describes it as - "sin," (47) "guilty passion," (62) "shame," (61) or "hypocrisy" (47) - but "love." (140) Even though Nathaniel Hawthorne establishes the scarlet letter as a badge of shame and a symbol of damnation by Puritan society, he at the same time is making it a powerful symbol of Hester's identity - an identity that highlights hope. The scarlet letter, the town magistrates condemned Hester to wear, was supposed to be an omnipotent symbol of her sin and an eternal "ignominy." (48) Hawthorne in line with his dark and gloomy tone made Hester cease to be a women, and be henceforth a living "emblem" (65) ...read more.

Conclusion

The "hungry dream of knowledge" (53) is a very abstract theme in The Scarlet Letter but nonetheless a very important one. Knowledge in one sense was a very crucial quality in the Puritan society and was connected directly with power, so Hawthorne by undermining the scarlet letter as a beacon of his dark and gloomy tone - emphasizes on the other hand a hopeful lighter tone where he glorifies her idealism, independence, and her hope The main conflict between personal identity and societal demands is cleverly revealed in The Scarlet Letter and is a sure representation of the two tones Nathaniel Hawthorne has used. One which is his dominant dark, gloomy and depressing tone that clearly represents society with its many facets of intolerance, hypocrisy, rigidity, restriction and orthodoxy, and the other, the lighter more hopeful tone, which is distinctly used by Hawthorne to underscore this. However by subtly and cleverly interjecting periods of 'cheering light', he is able to go past the extraordinary insight he offers into the norms and behavior of the 17th century American Puritan society and thus is able to glorify the very things that were rejected by the Puritans such as, individuality, romanticism, and idealism. 1 ...read more.

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