Compare how Nathaniel Hawthorne & Alice Walker portray the struggles of the central character to achieve fulfilment.

Authors Avatar

Compare how Nathaniel Hawthorne & Alice Walker portray the struggles of the central character to achieve fulfilment in The Scarlet Letter and The Color Purple.

Both novels are a celebration of American literature and explore the morals and values of the era in which they were set. The Color Purple being written in 1950 portrays the repression of black women especially in the South. Walker manipulates the character of Celie in order to exhibit a young woman’s journey through life and the trials and tribulations she faces whilst fighting the social hierarchy women were expected to accept. While Hawthorne’s use of the character of Hester Prynne, an adulteress and foreigner evidences the religious oppression that Hester is forced to confront (ironically through the moral weakness of a churchman.)

The Color Purple is written in epistolary form with the letters at the beginning of the novel written to God from Celie however later in the novel the letters are written by the character of Nettie. Throughout, Sofia’s story and the final return of Celie’s adult children with Nettie are also explored in this way. The Scarlet Letter however is written in third person narrative - where the narrator is a strong presence.  Hawthorne’s pretence that the story is based upon a document found when he was surveyor of the Custom House in Salem enables him to speculate with the reader about aspects of the narrative.  “Here to witness the scene which we are describing”, this omniscient author approach – while not matching the direct intimacy of Celie’s first hand narrative – permits the reader to have a more direct link with the story.

The local southern black dialect in The Color Purple is mostly phonetic for example ‘kilt’ or ‘killed’. The impact of the droll humour evident in the matter of fact simple language used by Celie and the understatement seems to make the horrors even greater. The conversational language used and  the short pungent sentences, rich dialect and the honest yet somehow crude expression along with deadpan humour is in stark contrast to the measured elegance of Hawthorne’s mid-nineteenth century prose with long, convoluted sentences used in The Scarlet Letter using many asides and subordinate clauses. There are clearly examples of poetic and symbolic language used throughout the novel along with gothic overtones. Many of the sentences and paragraphs he uses tend to be somewhat verbose, but at the same time very helpful in giving the reader an accurate representation of the exactly how Hester feels when she first sees Roger Chillingworth. Similarly Chillingworth’s reaction when he first sees Hester after she is released from prison is described using both syntax and imagery throughout the passage. Hawthorne gives us quite a bit of description within this passage, which allows us to see an intellectual side of Chillingworth. He is portrayed as a man of intellect, which conflicts with the Puritan views of religion. This is due to the fact that in general people are who are of high intellect reject the theory of Genesis and their beliefs are firmly rooted in the big bang theory.

“It was carelessly, at first, like a man chiefly accustomed to look inward, and to whom external matters are of little value and import unless they bear relation to something within his mind.”  
In this passage the secondary structures used throughout work to aid the reader in understanding the lackadaisical expression Hawthorne describes on the face of Chillingworth at the time when his gaze met Hester’s. These structures also help the reader to visualise the scene and allow the passage to be more comprehensible. It seems important to note that at this point in the novel it appears that he has emerged from two years in the wilderness to find his wife has given birth to a child by a man who is unknown to the community. He watches her as she is forced to stand on the scaffold on full public display as part of her punishment. Chillingworth knows only as much as the reader does at this point and he is compelled to seek an explanation from a fellow bystander. It must be recognised that a huge part of the fulfilment of the character of Chillingworth must derive from his desire to know the father of the child.

Join now!

Throughout The Color Purple there is a clear sense of racial tension running alongside the issues of feminism which are continuous. Each member of Celie’s family along with her husband’s children and Shug’s family are poor, ill educated, badly housed and exploited blacks living in poverty in the American South although Mr_______ seems to be a landowner and comfortably off. The characters in the novel who are exempt from this description are Nettie’s benefactors, Samuel and Corinne who resort to travelling to Africa in order to achieve fulfilment by becoming successful as missionaries; however this is not an economic compromise; their ...

This is a preview of the whole essay