Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Scarlet Letter

In “The Scarlet Letter” there are four driving forces that separate the plot into four separate parts. For each of these parts, there is a separate catalyst, which is a person or thing that brings about some change or changes, without being directly affected itself. In Chapters one through eight, the catalysts are the puritans. In chapters nine through twelve, the catalyst is Chillingworth. In Chapters thirteen through nineteen, the catalyst is Hester. Finally in chapters twenty through twenty-four the catalyst is Dimmesdale. These four main characters are important to “The Scarlet Letter” because they affect the story in their own unique way. In their certain chapters, they may not be the main character or the character that is being concentrated on, but they are vital to the novel’s plot. If these characters were eliminated from the chapters, then the story of “The Scarlet Letter” would not be the same story today.

In the first eight chapters, the puritans, who obviously act as not an individual, but as a group, are the driving force. They are always in the background talking and gossiping. Whether it is the Scarlet Letter they are fascinated with, or their beloved Dimmesdale, they are always in the background helping the story move on. In the first scaffold scene, the women of the market area all have their own opinion of what punishment Hester will receive. One of the gossips says that she should be punished according to the law, which is the punishment of death. Another gossip says that she will be punished enough on her own. It was puritan belief that one should be punished for the sin. Even the sinner thought this. That is what the gossip was implying in her statement that she will punish herself. She understands that Hester does not feel good about what happened. She, more than anyone else, feels that she should be punished, and she will in no way try and lesson her punishment. Also, the idea that Dimmesdale was the towns hero, and that they did not view him as a sinner until he ultimately confessed, is expressed by the way the townspeople respect him. Although the puritans do not have a major leading role in “The Scarlet Letter”, they manipulate the novel to an extent that the novel would be different if they were not included in the writing.

In Chapters nine through twelve, the catalyst is Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth is the catalyst because he does not do to many things to help Dimmesdale and Hester’s case besides secretly finding out what has happened between Dimmesdale and Hester. From this point on in the novel, his goal is to manipulate Dimmesdale to do what he wants. Chillingworth’s ultimate goal is to have Dimmesdale die without confessing his sin, which would mean he was going to hell. If Dimmesdale confessed, then for Chillingworth, all the work he has done would be worthless. This is because even though the people would look down on Dimmesdale, and frown upon him first committing adultery, and secondly hiding his sins. Chillingworth is such an evil character that he goes to such lengths in the novel as to sneak into Dimmesdale’s sleeping quarters and open up his shirt to receive his proof that Dimmesdale was Hester’s fellow sinner. Again, even though Chillingworth is one of the main characters in “The Scarlet Letter”, he is not the character who is being focused on in these chapters. He helps define the characters around him by interacting with them in negative influential way.

In Chapters thirteen through nineteen, Hester is the catalyst that supports the other characters. Hester is the main character in “The Scarlet Letter”, and she is the driving force who changes the course of the story from this point on. It is at this point of the novel, where Hester’s letter starts to change it’s meaning. The scarlet A, which once standed for adultery, now stands for Able. Hester is now the town’s “angel” and the town is proud that they have her as a citizen. Hester is now beginning to take charge and grow stronger. It is also in these chapters that Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the woods. Here, Hester finally tells Dimmesdale that she and Chillingworth are married and he is quite possibly trying to kill him. Dimmesdale and Hester then make the plan that would help the escape all their troubles. The plan is to escape Boston by boat and leave together. It is quite obvious that the story would be significantly different if Hester was not involved the way she is in these seven chapters. She revels to Dimmesdale that he is being almost stalked by Chillingworth and at this point the plot changes dramatically.

In the final four chapters, chapters twenty through twenty-four the catalyst is Dimmesdale. Throughout the whole story, Dimmesdale has had the chance to change the plot and confess his sin, almost putting himself out of his own misery. However, he waits until the final chapters of the novel to confess his sins and almost take the huge load he had been carrying off his back. When Dimmesdale finally confesses that he is Hester’s partner in their sin of adultery, and he dies, it is almost like he is a new person. He is grateful that he has confessed and he is able to talk to Pearl as a daughter from this point on until he dies. Dimmesdale had died after confessing his sins, making Chillingworth’s efforts all worthless. Chillingworth died about a year after Dimmesdale died because he had no other reason to live. It had come to a point where Chillingworth, the “leech” was surviving by making Dimmesdale suffer. And now that Dimmesdale’s suffering was over, he no longer had a reason to live. If Dimmesdale had not confessed, it may have given Chillingworth the strength to continue to punish Hester. Dimmesdale’s confession completed the novel, and changed the citizen’s look on their “God-like” Dimmesdale. His part in the novel not only affected Hester, but Chillingworth, Pearl, and the Puritans. If he were not involved with this novel, these four other characters would have been differently influenced. The four catalysts, the puritans, Chillingworth, Hester, and Dimmesdale were all characters that had major influences in “The Scarlet Letter” and when they were not the main characters, they were in the background, being the driving forces that helped move the plot along.

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