Stereotypes in the Scarlet Letter

1441 Words Dec 2nd, 2009 6 Pages
Nathaniel Hawthorne communicates through his novel The Scarlet Letter that some dogmatic attempts by society to label a person by his or her actions in the past will fail. Subjectivity across the community and throughout time changes the meaning of a symbol society implements to control an idea. The scarlet letter “A” Hester Prynne wears exemplifies this. The town wants the object to arouse feelings of ignominy towards Hester; however, not everyone who meets Hester interprets it the same way. The town originally regards the letters as a signification of ignominy, but this interpretation soon switches to ability, and, finally, to honor as Hester’s action prevail in the subjectivity across time. Subjectivity also leads the scarlet letter to …show more content…
Nevertheless, even when noted in the isolation of one period, the scarlet letter fails to set the moral standards for the community because of the prevalence of subjectivity among people. Different people know different things about Hester, and the various things people know about her influence their judgment of her.
Roger Chillingworth, for example, does not consider the scarlet letter so much a token of ignominy, as he deems it a constant reminder of the wrongs done unto him and the revenge he desires to correct those wrongs. When Chillingworth confronts Hester in jail and informs her of his plans to torture the man she consorted with, she asks why he did not wish to hurt her. He says that he has left her the scarlet letter and “If that has not avenged me, I can do more” (155). Chillingworth considers public humiliation one of the worst pains that someone else can inflict on a person and thus the scarlet letter, a public denunciation of Hester, becomes a symbol of revenge to him. The letter holds a more positive meaning for Dimmesdale, who considers it a declaration of relief. Dimmesdale hides many secrets in his heart, and he can only lust at the open announcement of guilt on Hester’s chest. He affirms that “it must needs be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is, than to cover it up in his heart” ( 123).
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