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Hester Prynne ---- Resurrection
SUBMITTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF
BACHELOR OF ARTS
CLASS: 3 GRADE: 2002
Chapter One: Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne…………………………………...P1
Chapter Tw Depravity---the Origin of the Scarlet Letter…………………………..P2
Chapter Three: Hester Prynne’s Resurrection --- From Suffering and Redemption to Salvation……………………………………………………………………………...P5
Abstract: The Scarlet Letter makes the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne known all around the world. Hawthorne is a pious Christian, and is deeply influenced by the theology. He’s so much indulged in the religious doctrine that people can find the reflection of the God almost everywhere in his works. After reading The Scarlet Letter, one is mostly impressed by the spirit of The Bible the story depicted. The book chiefly discusses sin and how to atone for it. Hester Prynne is the heroine of the fiction. This paper researches her fate to illustrate the influence of The Bible to Hawthorne. Hester Prynne commits adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her breast. At the beginning, she encounters all kinds of sufferings, both from the society and from her own soul. However, she realizes her sin and tries her best to atone for it. And she dose not choose to avoid her fault. Finally, through her endeavor, God forgives her. In short, sin and atoning for sin, that is the purpose of this paper.
Chapter One: Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne
With the publication of The Scarlet Letter in 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne became one of the greatest writer at that time and built his reputation a major American author. Since that time on, people began to take great interest in all aspects of his life and a great many biographical and critical studies had been written about him and his works. He is also becoming more and more popular and familiar with Chinese readers. Since the Chinese translation of The scarlet Letter appeared in 1950s, scholars and readers in this country have shown an ever-increasing interest in his works.
Hawthorne was born on the fourth of July, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. Some of his ancestors were big shots in seventeenth-century New England, which was under the control of Puritanism. One of them was a colonial magistrate, notorious for his participation in the persecution of Quakers, and another was a judge at the Salem Witchcraft Trail in 1692. Gradually, the family fortune declined. Hawthorne’s father was a sea captain, who died in an accident and left his mother and him behind to struggle to live for themselves. Young Hawthorne was quite aware of the misdeeds of his Puritan ancestors, and this awareness made him believe that evil was at the core of human life. To some extent, Hawthorne wrote some of his books, such as The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gambles to try to make up for the sin of his ancestors.
Hawthorne’s writing skills can be concluded as follows:
Firstly, all his life, Hawthorne seems to be indulged in his sense of sin and evil in life. Reading his books, one cannot but be overwhelmed by the black vision which these books reveal. Evil exists in the human heart all the time. For instance, in the short story, “ Earth’s Holocaust,” we can find that, though all symbols of tradition and the past have been burned in the bonfire of the life of the New World, the source of evil---the human heart, remains intact. Everyone possesses some evil secret as tales like “ Young Goodman Brown” set out to prove. Everyone tries to cover up its innermost evil in the way the minister Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter tries to pretend how pure and pious he is. Evil seems to be man’s birthmark. This point of view is just as what The Bible describes people’s original sin.
Secondly, to Hawthorne, sin will surely get punished, one way or another. As a matter of fact, he was said to be always troubled by the thought that the decline of his family’s fortune had something to do with the sins of his Puritan ancestors. Hawthorne deeply believes that “the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones”(The House of the Seven Gambles). It is also interesting to note that Hawthorne believes that evil educates. What Hawthorne seems to prove is that man can get experience from the crime which brings about the disaster.
In short, to tell the truth and yet not to offend, that is all Hawthorne tries to achieve in his works.
Chapter Tw Depravity---the Origin of the Scarlet Letter
The story begins in seventeenth-century Boston, which is under Puritan command. A young woman, named Hester Prynne, is sent ahead to America by her husband---an old and ugly scholar. However, for many years, he himself doesn’t arrive. Obviously, it is possible that he has been lost in the sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester and a young local minister called Arthur Dimmesdale fall in love with each other. They commit adultery secretly. Because of Hester’s Pregnancy, the secret is finally discovered.
According to The Bible, everyone is sinful. That is the opinion of the original sin: when God creates the world, He first creates a man called Adam and then a woman called Eve. They live happily in the Garden of Eden. God tells them that they can eat every kind of fruit in the garden except those on the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Instigated by the serpent, the two can not control their curiosity and violates God’s order and eat the fruits from that particular tree. That enrages God. From that time on, they become sinful and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. However, sin doesn’t stop. It is passed from generation to generation by reproduction of Adam and Eve. All successive generations are their descendants and therefore inherit their sin. So at the time one is born, he/she bears evil and has the root of committing crime.
According to the principle of the original sin, Hester Prynne is not an exception. She is also the offspring of Adam and Eve. The inside of her flows their bloods and she of course inherits their original sin. Thus she is a sinner from the beginning of her life.
Are there any other standards to judge whether a person is sinful?The answer is positive. The criterion should not be the common custom. Instead, it should be the God’s standard. Because according to the common custom, it is very difficult to judge sometimes. Everybody is a mixture of virtue and evil and the emphasis of everyone’s selfish desire is quite different. Some cravenly fear death, some cling to woman’s charms, some seek only profits and some hanker after reputation. Some are frank and honest and others sly and cunning. Therefore it is hard to decide who is right and who is wrong. Furthermore, the common custom is relative and changing. For example, twenty years ago, to commit adultery was enough to ruin a person’s fame. However, in today’s society, cohabitation before marriage is universal. Besides, although some people display higher moral standards than others, they still can’t get rid of selfishness and avoid committing crime. If we adopts the criterion of the common custom, although we know that we are not innocent, we will comfort ourselves that we may be worse than some people, but still better than others.
Thus we can only use God’s criteria to decide whether or not a person is sinful. God’s criteria are The Ten Commandments and The Seven Deadly Sins.
The Ten Commandments:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbours house. You shall not covet your neighbours wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
The Seven Deadly Sins: a)Pride; b)Lechery; c)Envy; d)Wrath; e)Sloth; f)Glutton
Obviously, according to these criteria, Hester Prynne is quite sinful. She is sinful because she disobeys God by committing adultery. When Chillingworth --- Hester Prynne’s husband sent her to the New World, although there was no love at all between the couple, she shouldn’t forget that she had already got married. She had a husband, who was just missing at that time. However, she could not control her vicious desire and had a love affair with the minister --- Dimmesdale. That’s not forgivable according to Catholicism. That’s insult to God. That’s betrayal! In such a situation, Hester Prynne forgot God’s instruction and was completely degenerated. She is a blaspheme to God.
So from the very day of her crime, Hester Prynne has to bear all the sufferings that follow. Every sin must be punished. All our behaviors and deeds can’t pass away easily. Our wrong-doings are hateful in that they not only deprave ourselves, but also offense others and especially God. Hester’s behavior is disgraceful and she is looked down upon by others. Furthermore, her adultery affronts God. God is just and fair. God will not forgive your fault carelessly. According to Tom Waltson, the nature of sin is evil:
Firstly, sin fouls people; sin is not only a flaw, but also a contamination. Sin to soul is the same as rust to gold. It is just like a blemish on a beautiful thing. The Bible compares sin with “plague”(1King, 8, 38). Sin fouls God’s image and stain the pure of soul. It makes God “grew weary of” the sinners (Zechariah,8,11); and when “you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done”(Ezekiel,20,43). Apostle Paul said in2 Corinthian, 7, 1 that “everything … contaminates body and spirit”.
Secondly, Sin makes God worry. “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”(Ephesians, 4, 30). Sin is deliberately an affliction to God. God doesn’t like sin because sin makes God be insulted. So to worry God is a big crime.
Thirdly, sin is contrary to God. A sinner trends on God’s principle and violates God’s decree.
Fourthly, sin brings evil. Sin is like the Trojan horse (The Greeks sieged Troy for many years without result. One day, they got an idea. They pretended to retreat, leaving a huge wooden horse, in which a number of Greek heroes had hidden themselves. The Trojans, who were too happy to reflect on the situation, brought the horse inside the city as a war trophy. In the following night, the Greeks came out and attacked the unsuspecting and celebrating Trojans, and finally conquered Troy), which has a common outlook and terrible things inside.
Lastly, sinners who don’t repent will die out. Unrepentant sin brings about “ the second death”(Revelation 20,14)