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Hawthorne's morality in The scarlet letter

Title
Hawthorne's morality in The scarlet letter
Authors
Chey, Sookja
Issue Date
1969
Department/Major
교육대학원 어학교육전공영어교육분야
Publisher
Graduate School of Education, Ewha Womans University
Degree
Master
Abstract
The purpose of this thesis is to study Nathaniel Hawthorne's morality as shown in the characters of his novel, The Scarlet Letter. Puritanism in New England is Hawthorne's moral and social background. The Puritans emphasized a strict moral code and their excessive morality made their lives gloomy. Hawthorne's characters are steeped in the Puritanism in his period. In this Puritan society sexual morality was especially strict, and adultery was regarded as an unforgivable sin. A woman who committed adultery condemned to wear the letter "A" on her garment and lived for the rest of her life as an outcast from the society. Hester Prynne, the heroine of the novel, was the woman cast away from her society as an adulteress. In spite of the social persecution she did not feel guilty because she was true to her own nature and to her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale. Through suffering, she finally regained her integrity and improved herself in stature and dignity. Arthur Dimmesdale, unlike hester, knew that his adultery was wrong from his intuitive knowledge of the sin. But he concealed his crime. At the end of bitter torment through seven years, his moral sense won, and he confessed his guilt for the first time in public. His confession made it possible for him to achieve a reunion with God as well as his lover, and he could enter the other world with peace in his heart. Roger Chillingworth devoted himself to revenge on Dimmesdale. In his vengeance, he violated human sanctity with his high intellect. He was guilty of intellectual pride fouler than both Hester and Dimmesdale's faults. At Dimmesdale's confession he found himself ruined and his plan completely destroyed. Hester was true; and so was Dimmesdale at his end. Dimmesdale atoned for his trespass by his death; hester by her life; there was no atonement for Chillingworth to the last moment. Through sinning and confronting their punishment, hester and Dimmesdale gained spiritual powers and won their salvation, while there was no way to salvation for Chillingworth. hawthorne presented Hester as a source of new life and moral vitality rather than an intolerable sinner as the Puritans had thought of her. He pointed out that the Puritan morality, while it emphasized a pious life according to its code, did not make allowance for human emotion and love.
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