[English Abstractl The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
is a classical novel in American literature in the 19th centur\r.
Since the first Chinese translation of The Scarlet Letter
appeared in the 1950's scholars and readers in this country
have shown an ever-increasing interest in his works. Its
immortal enchantment lies in not only its condemnation of the
negative impact of Puritan society on people's spirit, but also its
affirmation of goodness. The novel aims at criticizing severely
Puritanical asceticism, suggesting Hawthorne's further thinking
over the "original sin" "good and evil" "soul salvation" "total
depravity" by analyzing the four main characters in the novel.
The novel concerns the consequence caused by the sin and
people's attitude towards sin rather than the sin itself. He
believes man can do good deeds to get rid of evil in his heart.
[Key Words] Puritanism; Human nature; Prynne;
Dimmesdale; Roger; Pearl; the scarlet letter

  1. Introduction
The Scarlet Letter is a famous American novel whose author,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, is considered the leading American native
fictionist of the 19th century. Hawthorne was born in Salem,
Massachusette, of a prominent Puritan family, on July4, 18
"In 1850 he brought out his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter, the
stor\t of a triangular love affair in colonial America. In this novel
Hawthorne condemned the Puritan philosophy of life"[1]P49
"His stories display a psychological insight into moral isolation
and human emotion. He distrusted the claim of objective
reason to be able to arrive at humanly relevant truth" L21P53
His short stories and novel includes: The Minister's Black Veil,
Twice Told Tales, Mosses from an Old Manse, The House of The
Seven Gables, The Marble Faun, among which The Scarlet
Letter is the most famous. The novel is short but very moving.
Prynne, a young and beautiful woman, came to New England
two years before his husband, an old, ugly man who can not
give Prynne love. Prynne, then falls in love with Dimmesdale, a
young handsome clergyman and then has a baby, Pearl,
because she can not get any news from her husband, thinking
that he has died. When her "adultery" is discovered, she is
punished to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest all her life.
Her husband, Roger, tries his best to torment Dismmesdale.
And Dimmesdale, suffering from both physical and spirit
torment, announces his "sin" at last, he dies an honest man.
Roger, withers at last, Prynne, restructures her life and wins
people's respect, Pearl, leaves for Europe, marries a noble
family, leading a happy life.
Hawthorne's thought was full of contradictions. In his days,
American capitalism was developing rapidly, and the social
structure was changeable. He couldn't understand this change,
and tried to explain it by discovering the "hidden evil" in
everyone's heart because of the influence of Puritanism. He
used symbolism and imagination, which made his works full of
mystical color.
In this research paper, I analsize the main characters of the
novel aiming at discussing the novel is a skeptic to the Puritan

  2. Puritanism in American
"Puritanism was entirely English in its origin, yet the
movement achieved its greatest influence in America. The 17th
century colonies in New England represent the fullest
development of the movement."[3]P22 Puritanism is the
practices and beliefs of the Puritans. The Puritans were
originally members of a division of the Protestant Church, who
came into existence in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King
James I. The first Puritans to arrive in America were
Separatists. A new group of Separatists fled England in 1607
1609, to the north of Plymouth, in the area around Boston,
other Puritans began arriving in 162816
  30. They came over
under the auspices of the Massachusetts Bay Company, a
corporation with rights to the area of land lying between the
Charles and the Merrimack rivers,
They came to America out of various reasons, but it should be
remembered that they were a group of serious, religious
people, advocating highly religious and moral principles. They
believe that the church should be restored to complete "purity",
they accepted the doctrine of predestination, original sin and
total depravity, and limited atonement through a special
infusion of grace from God. Puritans' lives were extremely
disciplined and hard. As a culture heritage, Puritanism did have
a profound influence on the early American mind. American
Puritanism also had a enduring influence on American
literature. It had become, to some extent, so much a state of
mind, so much a part of the national cultural atmosphere,
rather than a set of tenets.
"Puritans includes people from the humblest to the loftiest
ranks of English society, educated and uneducated, poor and
rich" [4]P91"The Puritans were indebted to John Calvin and the
example of the Calvinist tradition. Another source of Puritanism
was the Bible, considered the sole authority in matters of faith"
It has the following thoughts: "The Puritans demand greater
purity and stricter obedience to the will of God, Englishmen in
the 16th called such person: "Puritans", a name derived from
the Latin word for pure, and intended as a criticism of the
reformers for being too extreme in their demands." [5]P21
"Puritan opposition to pleasure and the arts has sometimes
been exaggerated." [6]P91

  3. The analysis of characters

  3.1 Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne was a woman who committed adultery, which is
representation of evil of human nature in Puritans'eye, and
cannot be accepted by the puritans and the society at that time
and. Hester betrayed her husband and went against the
principle of honesty according to Puritanism, so she must
accept the severe penalty in the puritan society, wearing a
scarlet letter "A'f on her breast all her life which means
“adultery". "At the least, they should have put the brand of a
hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead." "This woman has
brought shame upon us all, and ought to die." [7]P43
The women's vicious curse was the supplement of the
puritanical code of law. To the puritans, the civilized life was to
throw the human nature into the prison. Here, we can see the
writer's negation to the Gail-the symbol of the Puritanism. But
“And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the
antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the
prison." [8]P45 "The door of the jail being flung open from
within, there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow
emerging into sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the
town-beadle, with a sword by his side and his stuff of office in
his hand" [9]P44
In the whole story, Hester generally kept silent, accepted the
insult from adults to children in the puritan society, In fact, she
showed extreme strength and courage to resist the bias of the
Puritanism by her good deeds. She was always the flrst one to
help people in trouble; gradually she won people's respect by
her benevolence. She spent most of her time on embroidery
and Pear, her fancy work was elegant and incomparable, which
made people admire her ability. She didn't only struggle for the
right of her own but also for a new world where both men and
women could possess the equal right to love. She was an
Amazon against the Puritanism. Several times when they met
in the forest, she encouraged Dimmesdale to escape together
with her. "Hester never thought of meeting him in any narrower
privacy than beneath the open sky." [10]P154 "She took off the
formal cap that confined her hair;" "Her sex, her youth, and the
whole richness of the beauty, came back from what men call
the irrevocable past."[11]P171 In Hawthorme's and Poe's
novels, women's black long hair stands for romance and desire,
while evil in Puritan society(茌霍桑,爱伦?坡等许多作家的小说中,女人
的长黑发缘征浪漫和情欲,这在清教徒眼中就是罪恶)[12]P66 Her
action itself is an affirm to the feudal regime and oppress. Here,
we can see Prynne never give up her pursue for love and
At the end of the story, to the reader's surprise, Prynne had
returned to New England. "People brought sorrows and
perplexities, and besought her counsel, as one who had herself
gone through a mighty trouble. Earlier in life, Prynne had vainly
imaged that she herself might be the destined prophetess"
[13]P221 this is the bitterest satire to the Puritanism and its
doctrine of total depravity.

  3.2 Dimmesdale and Roger
"Dimmesdale was a man torn between human nature and the
religious rules that formed civilization at that time." [14]P27The
puritans saw themselves as restoring the Christian tradition to
its original purity by new faith but to restore an old one. They
hoped to inspire whole communities with zeal for Christian
living, mainly through powerful preaching and bible study. He
represents many of their best virtues. He was conscientious,
learned, and eager to serve. He also represents some of their
common vices. He was hypocritical humorless, and a bit vain.
"Unlike Hester and Roger who represented two poplars of
passion and puritan doctrine, Dimmesdale struggled between
the two extremes. The rigorous doctrine of puritan society got
him stuck in his dilemma. Neither could he deny his love to
Hester nor could he make a public confession about his sin
because he was afraid of the consequence. This dilemma
gnawed his heart till his final confession and death." [15]P43
As a puritan representative, he suffered more from the guilt of
his hypocrisy than from the guilt of his passion. He was a
clergyman, meanwhile he was a man full of compassion and
human nature, he loved Prynne very much, and he committed
adultery which betrayed the puritanical code of law. Four
decisions were thus forced upon him; he must assert his
position in relation to man, God, his original sin and better self.
In each case, he only added new falsity to his torment and
suffering. "He was struggling on the edge of the spirit and flesh
coming breakdown, and he was beat and lashed by the so-
called articles of religion "the gory whip" at every moment. It
must be considered that he continued to be engaged in the
pure mission of a priest with the criminal body should be a
great affront to god and a deception to god-people. Eventually,
he told the secret in mind with divine courage, he obtains
tranquil and the newborn of spirit." [16]P48 this restraint from
religion in human nature exposes the hypocrisy of Puritanism
and its doctrine of predestination.
. Roger was someone whose emotional famine ended in a dark
feast of avenge. This made him a figure of black magic in
Hawthorne's sense, that was, someone who had willingly
committed his soul to the devil's care, and who became learned
in the arts of evil-doing. He was the most deplorable figure, "at
first, he was a victim; at last, he entirely became a ruthless
devil. The basic factor led to the result is affected by moral
conception, and the main criterion is Puritanism at that time."
[17]P92 His fate was a satire to the "good and evil" "soul
salvation" in the Puritanical code of law.
Roger was the full embodiment and victim of the rigorous code
of puritan society which negates human passion. He
represented moral evil and destroying power, When his evil
work was done he positively withered up, shriveled away like
an uprooted weed that lay wilting in the sun. Some people may
think that he was the victim and he revenged for his dignity.
But from the cruel means he revenged on Prynne and
Dimmesdale he committed an unforgivable sin. When
Dimondale, his tormented subject, ascended the scaffold to
confess his sin triumphantly, he was completely defeated just
as the puritan hierarchy was defeated.
Prynne and Dimmesdale were sinners at first, they committed
the 'original sin' according to the Puritanical code of law, and
however, they did good deeds to others and got rid of evil in
their heart. On the contrary, Roger was not forgivable he saw
revenge his sole purpose of life.

  3.3 The Role of Pearl
"Pearl was a character who has not yet chosen good or
evil ,She was in a natural pre-moral state. In this crucial sense
she was an unformed person and a reader cannot penetrate
much of he personality. Her innocence is tainted with a natural
inclination to selfishness, perhaps strengthened by her sadly
1037 it


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