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Huge Carrie Follower
So I am enrolled in the class AP Literature and Composition for this year. For the class, I am required to write an essay about the novel The Scarlet Letter. This is the prompt:
Technically, there are many people named in this novel, but in fact there are only 4 characters: Hester, Arthur, Roger and Pearl. Why so few? Are they all meant to be real characters, like people full of foibles and follies or are they caricatures, types of people constructed by the author to add meaning, each representing a kind of person with one true outstanding trait from which we should learn something? I.e., is the whole story meant to be more a slice of realism (from the Puritan era) or more an allegory (perhaps meant for all ages)?
If you could, and you have read this novel, I would really appreciate some feedback on my essay
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne has an incredible four characters introduced--Hester, Pearl, Roger and Arthur. To the person who hasn’t read this novel, four characters probably doesn’t seem nearly enough. However, all four of the characters represent something that helps make this novel a classic. Hester is the trustworthy one; if she makes a promise to someone, she will keep that promise no matter what. Pearl is the innocent one; she is simply viewed by society as a cute little girl who was brought into the world because of a love affair. Roger is the determined one; he will never give up on something he wants to achieve. Arthur is the persistent one; he will stand up for what he thinks is right no matter what. Each of the characters in this novel symbolize a different type of person that makes this novel more relatable to the reader.
Hester is the honorable one; if she says something, people believe her. Even after she started wearing the scarlet letter. She promised Arthur she wouldn’t tell a soul about how she had an affair with him. Even when she was threatened with death if she wouldn’t tell who the man was, she wouldn’t give in and tell everyone it was Arthur. Another example of this would be with Roger. She swore to Roger she wouldn’t tell anyone he had been her husband. The only one she told was Arthur, but he had already guessed that it had been Roger who had been her husband. Of course, Hester wouldn’t lie to Arthur as she was in love with him, and this was a Puritan society. If she had, she would’ve been in big trouble had she been caught. All this proves that Hester is, at heart, an honorable person despite the fact that she had an affair. Keep in mind, however, that this novel takes place in a Puritan society, where divorce was never allowed no matter what. If it was allowed, she most likely would’ve gotten a divorce and been completely open with both Roger and Arthur.
Pearl is Hesters daughter. She symbolizes innocence because she’s a kind, gentle little girl who was born as a result of an illegal love affair. She doesn’t really understand what’s going on, or why Hester is so uptight about her relationship with Arthur. She also shows signs of early atheism because she doesn’t know what the Puritans do to non-believers as a result of her young age. She doesn’t mean for it to cause trouble for her mother, it just kind of does.
Roger was Hester’s husband until she had her affair with Arthur. He was a spiteful man who cared for nothing but finding out who Hester cheated on him with and getting revenge on that man. Roger is an angry character, as it almost seems like he wants to kill the man who helped Hester cheat on him out of anger. However, he does have a softer side as well, shown when he soothes Pearl when she was sick and the fact that he is a pediatric doctor. This proves that he does indeed have a soft spot for children.
Arthur Dimmesdale is the minister who Hester cheated on Roger with. This logically means that he is also Pearl’s father. He has proven to have a liking for Hester even before they truly reconnected, shown when he defends her from society wanting to take Pearl away from her. He has a firm trust in his instincts and beliefs. He is the character who symbolizes protection and trust, as he is very trusting to Hester and he also protects both her and Pearl from the raging town.
The characters in this story each represent a type of person that lived during the Puritan era. There is Hester, who is an honorable yet misunderstood woman. There is Pearl, who is an innocent child. There is Roger, who is a revengeful man. There is also Arthur, who is a secure and trusting man. Each of these characters help to make the novel the incredible classic that it is today, and also help make the world of the Puritans easily understandable.
Thank you so much!
Carrie Fans Maniac
It reads very well. Let us know what the grade is. I would give it an A.
Obsessed Carrie Fan
Good essay - you've analysed the characters well.
One additional line of enquiry could be to take up the last point in the prompt (whether the story is meant to be just a description of attitudes in the Puritan era, or whether it also has a message for all times). I think a case could be made for the latter. To defend the Puritans' outlook, you could argue that repentance is not fully sincere unless it includes all the facts, and a complete renunciation of the earlier life of transgression. That was probably the way the Puritan leaders saw it. But, more generally, Hawthorne is probably making a point about putting the letter of the law ahead of a truly loving reponse. Remember that the Puritans claimed to have come to North America to escape persecution - yet they established societies based on a strict conformity to their beliefs, and punished or drove out anyone who didn't accept that conformity. That conflict between conformity to rules and accepting people lovingly even when they show failings, is found in the New Testament and it's still an issue today.
Carrie Fans Maniac
Well thought out response.
Originally Posted by Farawayhills