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The Scarlet Letter
Transcript of The Scarlet Letter
Governor Bellingham is trying to get Hester to reveal the name of the father of the baby, and he now gives the responsibility to find out the truth to Dimmesdale. This is ironic because later in the novel we find out that Dimmesdale is the father of Hester's baby. "...I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner
and fellow-sufferer"(Hawthorne 63).
Dimmesdale is talking to Hester Prynne and is trying to get her to reveal who the father of her child is. This is ironic because he is in fact the father of her child. "Her needlework was seen on the ruff of the Governor; military men wore it on their scarfs, and the minister on his band..."
Hester Prynne is known for her needlework and as the book says "her handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion". It is ironic that the community looks down on her and scorns her yet they still go to her for her needlework. "But she named the infant 'Pearl', as being of great price,-purchased with all she had, - her mother's only treasure" (Hawthorne 81).
Pearl is the daughter of Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale. The word 'pearl' is normally associated with pure and innocence and that is why it is ironic. Pearl symbolizes sin and shame yet at the same time, ironically, symbolizes innocence. Her mother says she is her only treasure but because of Pearl, Hester has to wear the scarlet letter and is scorned by the rest of her community. "...was considered by his more fervent admirers as little less than a heaven-ordained apostle, destined, should he live and labor for the ordinary term of life" (Hawthorne 109).
The narrator is explaining why Reverend Dimmesdale was chosen to be the spiritual guide and it is because his followers think so highly of him. This is ironic because Dimmesdale has committed adultery, although the community does not know this yet. Also around this time in the novel, Dimmesdale's health is beginning to fail due to his guilt. "...-that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able" (Hawthorne 146).
Originally the scarlet letter meant shame and sin but throughout the novel, it ironically changes meaning. It now symbolizes Hester's strength and that is why the community says it means Able. "...he had made the manner of his death a parable, in order to impress on his admirers the mighty and mournful lesson, that, in the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike" (Hawthorne 231).
After his Election Day sermon, Dimmesdale reveals his own stigmata to his congregation and then afterwards tragically dies. The congregation does not believe that Dimmesdale really is the father of Pearl, and he was just admitting the sin in order to provide a lesson for the community. Ironically, Dimmesdale died due to his guilt because of that sin. He was afraid what people would think when they found out, and when they actually found out they did not believe him. Hawthorne uses paradox by making Pearl a product of sin but at the same time, she is her mother's greatest treasure. This can be related to irony because you would think since Pearl has caused her mother to be scorned by the community she would not be considered her mother's greatest treasure. Hawthorne uses juxtaposition when he talks about the rose bushes next to the prison. This can be related to irony because the rose bushes symbolize moral blossom while the prison is associated with bad since that is where the criminals are kept. Hawthorne uses symbolism by ironically making Pearl the symbol of her mother's sin and shame, yet at the same time she symbolizes innocence. Hawthorne portrays human nature through different conflicts. Pearl's conflict, ironically, is purity versus sin. She is a very pure child at heart, but she came into existence because of Hester's sinful act of adultery. She is a constant reminder to her mother of her sin but she is also seen as her mother's only source of happiness. When Hester takes off the scarlet letter in the woods, Pearl throws a tantrum and will not come near her mother. She recognizes the scarlet letter and understands that it is a part of her life. "Her needlework was seen on the ruff of the Governor; military men wore it on their scarfs, and the minister on his band; it decked the baby's little cap; it was shut up to be mildewed and moulder away, in the coffins of the dead" (Hawthorne 76).
This quote helps show the juxtaposition of Hester vs the townspeople. Hester was forced to wear the scarlet letter because of the crime she committed, but the townspeople still use her for her needlework. She helps feed the poor, but even the poor scorn her still even after she helps them. It is ironic because Hester is not a bad person and the townspeople still scorn her due to their religious beliefs. Works Cited
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam Classic, 2003. Print.