Decoding Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter'
Seminar paper from the year 2009 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 2,0, University of Frankfurt (Main) (Amerikanistik), course: Life and Letters in the 19th Century, language: English, abstract: 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathanial Hawthorne was his first novel published under his own name. Also it is considered to be his best and/or most famous piece of work. It was written in the 19th century and until today still knows how to capture the readers attention. But why does this book still appeal to many readers and is now being published in its 66th edition, although one might think that it's topics might be a little outdated by now and modern readers would lack the possibility to relate? To answer this question we will have to take a closer look Hawthorne, his book and the themes therein. One might say that the letter did not have the effect on her as it was intended and as the novel progresses the letter 'A' seems of alter his meaning to certain people Hester interacts with. That is why I want to have a closer look at this famous scarlet letter, his different and how this is able to change throughout the novel. Especially the context of a puritan society has to be taken into account, or as Richard H. Millington noted: 'Culture is a structure of meaning that is not 'natural' or automatic but locally variable, historically changing and thus both inescapable and humanly revisable - as the changing meaning of Hester's letter within the Puritan community makes clear.' It might be that people living in our world today could not be able to relate to the problematic for Hester Prynne. Day in, day out there are people committing adultery and give birth to illegitimate children. But there is no real consequences for the adulterer or women living alone with child. We have to consider the context of the story to be able to understand the conflicts and sheer catastrophic events which build the start for Hawthorne's novel. Hester Prynne's story is a story of conflict with her society, the puritan society. Therefore we will have to take a brief look at the Puritans, then we will progress with the relation between them and Hawthorne impaled in his novel and lastly we will explore the meaning of the letter itself
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