Scarlet Letter Essay

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Considered one of the greatest American novels, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is set in 17th or 18th century Salem, Massachusetts, a developing colony at the time filled with Puritan settlers. As an author in the 1840s writing his romance about the roots of his home and drawing from his Quaker ancestry, Hawthorne gives his perspective about Puritanism looking back many years later. The early Puritans in the time had broken off from the Church of England because of many controversial beliefs. The colonists believed that no matter what an individual did, there was no way to change one’s salvation, which God had already planned out. However, they did spend much of their lives searching for and inferring signs and symbols of their fate, which is also known as Hermeneutics. This practice is constantly seen in Hawthorne’s romance with many subliminal opinions of the narrator. Not only does Hawthorne critique Puritan society throughout The Scarlet Letter, but he even uses their interpretive methods to enforce his disapproval of the theology. Hawthorne begins his novel with “The Custom-House”, a long introduction about the narrator, which includes many similarities between himself and his narrator. The narrator goes on describing detailed experiences working at a Custom-House and “making an investment in ink, paper, and steel-pens, [who] had opened his long-disused writing-desk, and was again a literary man” (29). This is not a surprise because Hawthorne himself had worked for three years in a Custom-House before writing The Scarlet Letter, which is an obvious parallel with the narrator. The introduction continues to act as an autobiography for Hawthorne with the narrator spending his time in Salem, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the great American novelist. It goes into great depths of description in order to exaggerate the narrator’s similarity

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