No one is perfect and no one is exactly the same. Everyone sins, and that includes telling lies. Most everyone lies at some point, whether it be to cover something up or just make someone feel better.
Or it can be both. We as people are very afraid of being judged in a bad way, so if a person does something sinful or shunned upon, they lie about it to keep their reputations protected. This opinion based on anothers life decisions is a hypocritical decision. We don’t want it happening to us, however we do it when we hear gossip about others in our community. This is because people are very judgemental.
This wasn’t just applicable in 1650, or even 1850 when The Scarlet Letter was written, but it is still something that is going on today not only in America, but right here in North Central High School. Though most people know the difference between the truth and a lie, Nathaniel Hawthorne establishes that many people have different perceptions of truth because of denial, reaction to judgement, and differences in moralities in the epic tale of The Scarlet Letter. Many people deny their emotions, especially strict Puritans. They sell themselves to God and live for no one or thing else. They are givers, not takers, which is an admirable trait to some, but not Romanticist Hawthorne.
In the novel The Scarlet Letter, there are strict Puritans like these. Hester Prynne is one example. She, like everyone in the world, commited a sin. However, it was a considerably bad sin: adultery.
Even if the option, which wasn’t presented to the reader, that her and Arthur Dimmesdale (her adulterer) were in love, it wouldn’t have mattered because she would’ve felt bad anyway (Even though she didn’t love her husband) the same thing would have come from it: complete and utter misery for everyone involved in the sin. This was because she denied HER emotions and went with whatever she thought God wanted her to do. Another example of denial blocking one similar definition of truth is Arthur Dimmesdale. He denied his past to have a better future. However, that didn’t seem to work because he killed himself in the end to stop his melancholy.
He denied himself to his congregation and community. By violating the dignity of his position as a minister, he chose to violate it further by not telling anyone. However, he never showed an obvious regret to having had sex with Hester. His definition of truth was different than Hester’s because he was never thought of as the father of Pearl, and so was never asked about paternity, yet he never let himself be known either. Whereas Hester, in feeling so guilty, put her truth out there for all to see, but only so she could be accepted as God’s child once again.
And then there’s good ol’ Roger Chillingworth. He was in denial as well. He tried to be someone he wasn’t by marrying a beautiful girl who didn’t love him, and by stealing her youth. He became a sadistic fiend and though he admitted it, he didn’t really realize the severity of his inner-trials. His life, sadly, had become devoted to finding the man who impregnated his wife (that he didn’t even love) and destroying his life. He didn’t actually tell a lie, but he kept many things secret from everyone, even the people he was closest to.
He didn’t tell anyone for a very long time that he was Hester’s husband. He even changed his last name to hide his identity. Maybe he was afraid of who he really was and so, denied it. He denied his whole entire life, and in turn, didn’t even know he was lying. Many different types of denial play parts in many different types of truths and every character embodies a different type. Every character gets judged repeatedly throughout this book.
Being judged negatively is a fear known to most people, it always has been and probably always will be. Arthur Dimmesdale had more of a reason to fear the judgement than anyone else. He was a minister, the man who was supposed to embody morality. Everyone idolized him as the man closest to God in their community. Sex is one of the most shunned upon sins, then as is now, in America.
If he were to tell people that not only did he have sex, but with a married Puritan woman, and impregnated her, he would have been exiled or worse, killed. If he wasn’t a minister would the punishment have been this severe? Probably not. But this type of act would not go untouched in 1650 Boston. Society is a hypocrite.
They are fearful of negative judgement from their peers, but are quick to give it when it isn’t them. It’s a viscious cycle. Arthur’s fear of judgement made him feel guilty; one of the reactions to judgement by society. Another way to deal with discrimination is acceptance. This was shown through Hester Prynne. She could be thought of as the main example for acceptance.
She was not hostile in any way and we as the audience knew she was ashamed as a person, but by wearing the A and being proud of her child, she didn’t seem ashamed in the least. However, the only reason she took responsibility for her actions and didn’t run away was because of her devotion to her religion, which was what all strict Puritans had in mind. She didn’t fear judgement because she knew if she lived to receive it she would become closer to God. And the other way, and possibly most common among society, to deal with judgement from peers is to become a judger themselves.
This is the ‘bully syndrome.’ The bully in the playground picks on you, takes your money, and says “You’re ugly!” When you’re little, you don’t think about it, but as you get older you realize this bully only picked on you because of his own insecurities. Not only that, but when analyzed further, you realize that he targeted his exact insecurity on you to make you feel as bad as him, except less powerful. The judgement breaks you down so much that you have nothing to do but judge others to regain confidence. If you have doubts about something you did, that means you know it’s wrong and you’re going to get crap for it.
So, some people tell the truth and accept it, while others wimp out and lie about it until it eats them up inside. Either way, you sinned and are considered immoral to someone. Every single person has different morals and ideas of what is sin and what isn’t. Two people can be the same religion and still have unlike views on certain issues. That is where individuality of a character comes in.
Not everyone is brought up in the same household with the same parents. It’s even obvious through the generations of Hester and Pearl. Pearl is Hester’s better half, as is Hester to Pearl. They really are nothing alike because of it. Hester raised Pearl, subconsciously, to be her strength when Hester was weak.
And since Hester had authority, she was the other half of Pearl in that sense. Hester was really made out to be a Puritan, but definately had some Romanticism in her waiting to come out (and did when she caught some sun as well as her rendezvous with Arthur). And Pearl was a Romanticist at heart, but had some Puritan in her as brought down from her mother. When one is a child they have less inhibitions.
They don’t worry about who to impress or even care for that matter. That should be admired among the Puritan women (or any woman for that matter). Morals differ not only with the person (which is in every case), but also with the age of the person. Once a person has matured through personal journey and has realized where they are with God and the world, their views are set, and much different than say, their childrens’. Society tries to alter young peoples beliefs to have ‘more on their team.’ This makes the youth think, and in some cases, want to rebel, completely forcing the child to defeat the society’s original purpose.
This rebellion could have been what caused the whole Romanticist movement in the first place. The need to be completely unlike the Puritans was what drove them. And perhaps that is why Romanticist Hawthorne celebrates Pearl…she didn’t want to be a Puritan, she wanted to have a mind of her own. It has been later known that the power of the individual is more important than being your community’s puppet. No human conscience has exactly the same morals, so if what they did wasn’t wrong in their eyes then there’s no reason to tell everyone and make a commotion.
This is another place where truth can be misconstrued. There are so many different perceptions of truth that there can’t be one way to keep everything straight. A person could be telling a lie, bending the truth, hiding something, or be too scared to come clean about something they’ve done wrong. They could be Romanticist and celebrate imperfection, emotion, and imagination, or a Puritan and celebrate God and conformist nature. No one has the same beliefs about everything.
No one has the same emotions. No one has the same tie with God. No one has the exact same views on truth. Hawthorne saw these factors and wanted it to be known.
Also, in reading his novel, there is a better understanding provided for Romanticism, as well as Puritanism. The Scarlet Letter was a tale of epic porportions for the story itself, but the intellectuals that have read it have gone much deeper than that and found an even more valuable meaning to the book. When people say this is a timeless tale, it is true. Most of the things written about, when thought into depth, still apply to life today and the psychology of man today. And even though there is dispute over the meaning of this book, for whatever reason, there can be no valid argument that The Scarlet Letter isn’t a timeless peice.