An Analysis Of Puritanistic Elements In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

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I, STEFANUS NATANAEL SEMBIRING, declare that I am the sole author of

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Title of Paper


An Analysis Of Puritanistic Elements In Nathaniel

Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter


: D-III/ Ahli Madya

Study Program

: English

I am willing that my paper should be available for reproduction at the discretion

of the Librarian of the Diploma III English Department Faculty of Letters USU on

the understanding that users are made aware of their obligation under law of the

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For words.

First of all, I would like to thank and praise to the God for blessing and giving me

health, strength and ease to accomplish this paper as one of the requirements to

get Diploma III certificate from English Department Faculty of Letters, University

of North Sumatera.

Then, I would like to express a deep gratitude, love and appreciation to:

My beloved parents,

Drs. Aswan Sembiring, M.Si and Mantharia


. Thank you for all your motivations, advices, prays, and loves for

me. I present this paper for you.

Dr. Matius C. A. Sembiring, M.A.

as the Head of English Diploma

Study Program, who gives me a lot of advice and knowledge.

Drs. Parlindungan Purba, M. Hum.

as my supervisor. Thank you for the

valuable time in giving the correction and constructive critics in

completing this paper.

Dr. Syahron Lubis, M.A.

as the Dean of Faculty of Letters, University of

North Sumatera.


lectures in English Diploma Study Program for giving me advices and


My lovely sibling,

Deci Kinita Sembiring,

thank you for your motivation


My Entire friends in

Solidas (Student Of English Diploma Association).

Thank you for the nice friendship during us together.

My best friend:

Andre, Horas, Basten, Habib, and Wahyu.

Thank you

for the nice friendship during our study. I will never forget your kindness

to me and I will be missing the days we spent together.

Finally, I do realize that this paper is still far from being perfect. Therefore, I

welcome any constructive critics and suggestions towards this paper. I hope this

paper will be a worthwhile for the readers.


April 2014

The writer,




The Background of the Study ……….…1


The Problem of the Study ………....3


The Scope of the Study ………....3


The Purpose of the Study ………....3


The Significance ………...4


The Methodology ………..4




Novel ………...6


Puritanism ………...8




Belief and Practice ………...…...13


Puritanism in England ………..….17


Puritanism in America ………...20




Hypocrisy As The Negative Side of Puritanism ………...24


Arrogance As The Negative Side of Puritanism ………...31








The Background of the study

Literature is a kind of media through writing in expressing idea or ideas


Literary writer such as novelist, poet, or dramatist is an individual and

social being who wants to express his or her understanding towards lives by his or

her works. By doing so, the literary writer is a mediator to his or her reader

through the text or language he or she writes in their work. That is why rene

Welleck (1976 : 1) states that literature is a reflection of life or the mirror of life

that needs understanding wholly.

Nathaniel hawthorne’s

The Scarlet Letter

is a novel that tells about man’s

life experience during the time of Puritanism teaching was dominat. Puritanism is

a religious belief that represents absolute rule to praise Lord as the creator of the

universe. The teaching sounds so perfect that beyond the man’s ability to follow.

For instance, a man must be free from sin whatever he has done in his life. A

woman is not allowed to wear lipstick because it is supposed a kind of affection

from the satan. In short, man must live heavenly on the earth living.


points that is hypocricy and arrogance. Each of the terms sounds the negative

effect of puritanistic teaaching that disturbs the novelist’s social response. That is

why this novel is received as a social novel which implies social matter that

happens in the society.

The theme of the novel has been the reason why the focus of analysis is

addressed to negative effect of puritanistic teaching. As the name suggests that

man should be pure in his life conduct, the novel presents the contrast in social

real life. The story goes that a woman named Ester has a scandal with a preacher

named Arthur. The scandal has made ester pregnant and the preacher just keeps

silent on what has happened. Ester must come through the punisment by wearing

a leeter A for Adultery on her neck. It informs publicly that Ester has committed

an adultery that needs knowing by anyone.



The Problem of the Study

The novel

The Scarlet Letter

is a social novel that pictures specifically

social problem under the influence of Puritanism. Puritanism is a kind of religious

dogman under Chrisyianity that teaches a man must be pure in his life which is

free from sinful deed. Since the teaching is beyond man’s limited power, the

impact of the teaching is so contrast with the reality. Therefore the problem is

addressed to :


How is hypocricy so dominat in the character’s living ?


How is arrogance happened behind the hypocrite manner on the

character’s living?


The Scope of the Study

The scope of the study in this paper is limited to the characters, Hester

Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, who become the victims of puritanistic negative

effects. The former is the weak victime, and the latter is the strong one. Hester is

one of female congregation under the preaching of Arthur whi is the preacher of

the church.


The Purpose of the Study



The Significance

Theoritically, the significance of this study is to enrich literary insights

through analysing the novel. It is done for scientific understanding of how literary

work is analysed for better understanding of what novel is and its theme. Next,

practical significance of this study is to understand the novel

Scarlet Letter

as well

as its writer of how the novelist pictures the effects of puritanistic dogma. In

addition, this study can be applied by other students as reference for further study

related to this novel or other works.


The Methodology



Source of data

The source of data is devided into two categories : primary and secondary

source data. The primary source data is the novel

The Scarlet Letter.


secondary source data is books that related to the study especially literary books.

Besides, the internet is also applied in order to get more information about the

novel and the data.


The data of this paper research is the text of the novel in the form of

quotations. The novel has been read several times and then the text of the novel is

selected by identifying quotations which are connected to the analysis.

Data Analysis





Shaw (1972:189) says, “Novel is a lenghty ficitious prose narrative

portraying character and presenting an organized series of events and settings. “A

work of fiction with fewer than 30.000 to 40.000 words is usually considered as a

short story, novellete, or tale but the novel has no actual maximum length. Novels

typically have more characters than a short story and a more complicated plot that

might take place in various settings, sometimes over a period of months or years.

Novels do not present a documentary picture of life. Alongside the fact

that novels look at people in society, the other major characteristic of the genre is

that novels tell a story. In fact, novels tend to tell the same few storied repeatedly.

A novel is an extended work of prose fiction, longer than a short story or a

medium-length fiction. Called a novelette or novella. Novel is a work of someone

who is the outpouring of ideas and feeling. To devote ideas and feelings, the

author is authored by considering the elements of novel such as plot, character,

theme, setting, point of view, and style are used to development of novel. Through

of these, the readers can understand and analyze the novel. They have a linked and

always effect the character. Therefore, we must understand the elements of the



the cause and effect so it is a part of unity. Rounded, and completely to achieve a

goal. In literature, plot refers to the arrangements of events to achieve an intended

effect. A plot is a series of carefully devised and interrelated action that progresses

through a struggle of opposing forces to a climax and a denouement. Plot is linked

to character development. There is an important difference plot and story. Story is

a simple sequence of events in time, event plot is the way these events are

rendered and organized so as to achieve their particular effects.

The second element of the novel is character. Character is person used by

to author to carry the action, ideas, language and emotion of the story. Character

was a formal sketch or descriptive analysis of a particular virtue or vice as

represented in a person, what is now more often called a character sketch. The

author can describe the character from physical appearance and attitude. Through

the character, the author tells the story to the readers. The readers need to observe

the action, to listen what the character say and how they say it, to understand how

they relate to other character and how other character respond them.

The third element of novel is theme. Shaw (1972:273) says that theme is

the central and dominating idea in a literary work. In the novel, the theme is the

central idea that develop in the plot. Almost all the major ideas that exist in life

can be a theme such as : ambition, loyalty, jealousy, frustation, hypocricy,

fortitude, and other. Theme has to do with that the readers read as the story’s

point, message, function or implied view of live and conduct.


reader directly by the narrator. Setting is a description of the time, place, and

atmosphere that occurs in the novel.

The fifth element of novel is point of view. Point of view refers to the

position and stance of the voice, or speaker, that author adopt for their works.

Point of view is a specified position or method of considered on and appraisal. It

suppose a living narrator or person who tells.

The sixth element of novel is style. Stanton (2007:1800) says the style

from the Latin word


, means the way author assemble words to tell the

story, develop the argument, dramatize the play, or compose the poem.



In this thesis the writer applies library research to explore her analysis and

she has an opinion that it is very important to have good related reading materials.

Since the story in this novel deals much with puritan society of seventeenth

century in America, the writer feels necessary to, firstly, define what puritan is, as

can be seen below :

“Puritan is (16


and 17


cc, in England) member

of a division of the Protestant Church which

wanted simpler forms of church ceremony. 2.

Person who is strict in morals and religion, who


believes that all people should work hard


(Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of

Current English. 1974 : 679)

And to give a light for better understanding and better appreciation of the novel.

The writer thinks that it is advisable to quote information, about who the puritans

are, what they did and the reason why they emigrated to the colony where the

setting of the novel is scened, as follows :

“The founders of Massachusetts wanted freedom

to practice their religious beliefs. Leaving

England at a time when Charles I seemed

completely in control, they believed that their only

chance for freedom lay in moving elsewhere. In

their view, the Church of England was a true

church. Leaving England was simply their means

of avoiding a conflict between their loyality

puritanism and their loyality to the king. Another

reason for leaving England was their belief that

God was about to punish the nation for refusing to

obey his commands to reform”.


It is understood that puritanism originally concern people with high status like

kings, member of parliament, congregational parties, etc, as can be seen in above

quotation. They play big roles in “The Scarlet Letter” and they make the novel go

ground. Puritans believe very much in a doctrine of predestination, that is, God

only elect certain people like priest, minister, etc to possess Hisgrace. This

doctrine then causes them to practice ackward rules that they always treat or

punish those do wrong or commit deed sinful especially those of low status

unfairly and cruely like what happens to Hester Prynne, the hero of the novel.

As the little suggests, this thesis touches a lot about puritanistic values and

teachings. Hester Prynne has to burden the disgrace due to her adultery of which

the society regards it as a severe and unpardonable sin. Her fellow sinner, Rev.

Dimmesdale, a man of dignity and honor, who is supposedly “stainless”, tempted

and has to live in hypocrisy as he has to hide his sin. Here the novelist,

Hawthorne, who was born in the Massachusetts colony, into a family descend

from influential seventeenth century New England Puritan, examines Puritanistic

rules and values :

The Scarlet Letter, which is the best as well as the

best known of his novels, is beautifully written and

beautifully constructed, mounting from one

dramatic scene to another until it reaches its


Seven Gables, which followed The Scarlet Letter,

also scrutinizes Puritanism but in a quieter


(The highlight of American Literature, 1969 : 77)

Hawthorne also expresses his disagreement with ecclesiastical-corrupted-system.

He shows us that one of the characters in the novel, Rev. Dimmesdale is really not

“purified”. This is in accordance with the reality found in puritan society of the

time in which men of high position are actually dirty :

In 1584 it drew up a petition for ecclesiastical

reform which . . . in 1604 and 1610 reiterated

its request for a purification of religion and the

abolition of the Court of High Commision.

(Enciclopaedia of the Social Science, vol 9: 3)


their cruel treatment like what they do to Hester Prynne is a proof of corrupted

values of puritan society.




Belief and Practice

Puritanism was a refore movement within English Protestanism that

emerged in the 16


century. The movement proposed to purify the church of

England and to invigorate the daily practice of religion. For their program of

reform, the puritans were indebted to John Calvin and the example of the

Calvinist tradition. Another source of puritanism was the Bible, considered to sole

authority in matters of faith. Puritans believed that roman Catholics has perverted

Christianity from the doctrine and worship, and they wanted the Christian church

restored to its original condition, as described in scripture.

The movement remained frustrated until the reign of Charles I

(1625-1649), when a political crisis led to civil war and puritans took control of the

English government. Meanwhile, Puritan emigrants had colonized New England

founding Plymouth in 1620 and Massachusetts in 1626-1630. The period of the

English Revolution of 1640-1660 also known as the “Puritan Revolution” marked

the height of puritan influence. Decline quickly followed as the movement split

into several sects and denominations. An enduring legacy was evangelicalism, and

the many waves of revivalism and reform that have swept America since the 16


century all stem from the Puritan movement.


everyday life, has often appeared within the church. Englishmen in the 16


century called such persons “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. Puritans would not accept the status quo. Because they were disrupters,

they were constantly criticized in England and America.

Originally Puritanism was a phase of the Protestant Reformation, and the

Puritans wanted England to be reformed as John Calvin (1509-1564) had

reformed Geneva. Most of their religious doctrines were also taken over from

Calvinism, including their belief in all-powerful God. In the 16


century no

Protestant doubted the authority of scripture, the reality of heaven and hell, or the

sinfulness of man. Every living person was guilty of sin because of Adam’s

disobedience in the garden if Eden. Like other Christians of their time, the

Puritans also thought the doctrine of a risen Christ who saved mankind from

eternal punishment.

Some of the Puritans were millenarians, which means that they thought of

history as coming to the end with the return of Christ, the last judgement, and the

establishment of the kingdom of God. The millenarians please for reform were

based on the expectation that these events would occur fairly soon.


tainted by sin, they reasoned, that his works could never please God saving grace

came as a gift, not as a reward for anything that man had done.

A person knew that he was elected to salvation if he went process of

religious conversion. For the puritan, the conversion experience was the centre of

religious life. Conversion was the extraordinary moment when salving grace

entered the heard releasing in from bondage to sin. Those who had this experience

took on a new identity. The become “visible saints”, a person who showed by

their behavior that their whole way of living was based on serving God.

Countless puritans offered descriptions of the conversion process, but none

with more insight than John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). The hero

of Bunyan’s allegory sets out from City of Destruction for Mount Zion, bearing

on his back a great burden the emblem of his sins. On the way he falls into a

swamp (despair). He turn aside from the straight and narrow path (religions truth).

Arriving at the Cross, he feels the burden tumble off, and his heart leaps for a joy.

But troubles lie ahead. He will doubt his faithfulness to Christ, and he must face

the temptations of Vanity fair.


such journals suggest that the Puritan could lead a melancholy life. But the

sombre side of Puritanism can be overstressed. Puritans did not wear black

clothes, as popular image implies. They liked their spirits, were far less prudish

than the victorians, and in many ways behaved like other middle-class

Englishmen of the period.

As reformers, Puritan proposed to change the basis of current membership.

They regarded the church as a special place because it was here that the saints

gathered to create a new kind of community. People were to enter the church

voluntarily, but only after promosing to “walk in the ways” of Christ. Each

congregation was empowered to dismiss any member who fell from grace. Every

adult male in the church had the right to vote on such matters as choosing a

minister, admitting new members, and deciding cases of church discipline. The

community of the saints was set a part from the world both in being pure and in

practicing a certain degree of democracy.

What held this community together was a conception of history. Puritans

believed that God by His providence determined the course of human events.

They assumed that providence would favor people who entered into a covenant

with God to obey His commandments. Reading themselves as covenant people,

Puritans often compared their relationship with God to that of the children of

Israel as a chosen people. They too had a special role to play in history, to prepare

the church fo Christ’s return to earth.


regard themselves as being an “elect nation” and Americans absorbed the idea of

mission. It is not clear that Puritanism led straight to democracy. Yet puritan

church government taught people to practice responsible citizenship, and it

obliged rules to serve a higher law than self-interest. On the whole, the movement

helped to weaken traditional elites and ideologies. As an expression of the middle

class in England, Puritanism also encouraged capitalism and individualism.


Puritanism in England

Puritanism arose during the reign of Elizabeth I. The religious situation

was in flux when Elizabeth took the throne on 1558. The church of England had

changed from Catholic to Protestant under Henry VIII, her father. But with Mary

Tudor, Catholicism was restored. During Mary’s reign (1553-1558) Protestants

were completed to conform or go into exile. No one believed in religious

toleration. The religion of the head of the state was official religion of the nation.

To disagree was commit an act of treason.


abolition of the bishops, stricter enforcement of church discipline, elimination of

most ceremonies and rituals, and higher standards for the clergy.

Puritans had no intentions of establishing their own church. Theirs was a

movement of reform within the church of England but with the queen preventing

reform, some Puritans choose another road. Claiming their salvation was

threatened because the church of England was not a true church, they set up

purified congregrations of their own. The most important of these Separatists,

Robert Browne, withdrew from the church in 1579. A handful of others followed

Browne’s example. Separatism had little impact on the Church of England, but it

revealed that Puritans suffered from intense frustation.

Elizabeth I was succeeded in 1603 by James I, whose son, Charles I

became king in 1625. The Stuart kings disliked Puritanism as intensely as

Elizabeth, and refused to satisfy requests for reform. Both kings claimed more

privileges and powers for their office than Parliament was willing to concede. The

conflict between Charles and Parliament exploded into civil war in 1642. Puritans

gave strong support to Parliament, which, after its victory over the crown, ordered

many of the Puritans reform into practice.


Congregationalists. The preferred a system of government gave that independence

to each congregation and restricted church membership to visible saints.

Congregationalists had an importantly in Oliver Cromwell. A leading

general in the civil war, he assumed control of the government after the execution

of Charles I in 1649. Cromwell allowed a degree of religious toleration, however,

and during his rule, Puritanism broke into sects as some Puritans became

Presbyterians or Congregationalists and other turned baptists or quakers. Never

again would the movement achieve unity in England see also civil war, English.

The restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 ended the role of

Puritans in government. A period of persecution followed, with most Puritans

having to practice their religion in secret. As toleration slowly became state

policy, these groups, known collectively as Nonconformists, reemerged.

Nonconformists supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when last of Stuarts,

the Catholic James II, lost the throne to a Protestant, William of Orange. The new

king granted Nonconformists the right to have their own churches. There after,

Puritanism existed mainly outside the church of England in separate



took up social causes such as temperance and anti slavery. Nonconformists and

Evangelicals became mainstays of moral and social reform in 19


century Britain.


Puritanism in America

Puritanism was entirely English in its origins, yet the movement achieved

it greatest influence in America. Here the Puritans were able to carry their

program without interference and with less disagreement among themselves. The



century colonies in New England represent the fullest development of the


The first puritans arrive in America were Separatists. A new group of

Separatists fled England in 1607-1609, among them the Reverend John Robinson

and members of his congregation. They found refugee in Leiden, Holland, from

where a portion of the group known as Pilgrims, emigrated to America, landing at

Plymouth in December 1620. The colony was never large, yet its founding is

commemorated more than of any other colony in American history. One reason in

the moving history of the venture written in 17


century by William Brandford,

governor of Plymouth Colony. His history of Plymouth plantation is a literary

masterpiece of the American experience.


The founders of Massachusetts wanted freedom to practice their religious

beliefs. Leaving England at a time when Charles I seemed completely in control,

they believed that their only chance for freedom lay in moving elsewhere. In their

view, the Church of England was a true church. Leaving England was simply their

means of avoiding a conflict between their loyalty to the king and their loyalty to


Another reason for leaving England was their belief that God was about to

punish the nation for refusing to obey his commands to reform. It seems

particularly true of the colonists that they felt the final day of judgement was near.

They would take refugee in New England, they reasoned and waited for Christ to

return and restore His kingdom. John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts

Bay Colony, who believed that the colonists were to act as an advance guard is

setting up the kingdom, told them in 1630 that their mission was to build a “city

upon a hill”.

Free to build as they wished, the founders of Massachusetts began by

enacting the basic program of the reform movement. Eliminating bishops,

ceremonies, and much else. But they also took more radical steps, limiting church

membership to visible saints, and choosing democratic Congregationalism as the

fomr of church government. There was an argument about these matters before

the ministers, led by John Cotton, drew up the Cambridge Platform (1648), a

summary of Congregational theory and practice.


believed that church and state should cooperate in serving God. To ensure this

happening, the founders of Massachusetts restricted the right to vote for officers

of the colony to church members. John Winthrop feared that unless the saints held

political power, wrong kind of person would get elected to office and divert the

colonists from their mission.

Protest againts the policies of Winthrop and Cotton came from several

groups. Some colonists complained that Congregationalism was too democratic in

permitting every church member to participate in decision. Others declared that

the basis of church membership was too narrow: they wanted it open to anyone of

goor behavior. Anne Hutchinson called for more radical change. The antinomian

controversy (1836-1838), involving the issue of obedience to moral or religious

law versus inner grace as the basis for judging who were saints, pitted Hutchinson

and her followers againts Governor Winthrop and the majority of the clergyman.

She lost, and was banished. Roger Williams argued againts identifying

Massachusetts with Israel and giving the government any authority over the

church. In 1635, William was forced to leave Massachusetts for Rhode Island.


Halfway Covenant, as this declaration was called, allowed children to be baptized

whose parents were not really visible saints. Membership was widened, but on the

basis of lower standards.

The leading minister of the second generation of New England Puritans

was Increase Mather. Together with his son, Cotton, he tried to prevent decline by

holding up the example of the founders. Cotton Mather wrote more than 400

books and pamphlets, among them Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), a lengthy

history of New England that extolled the first generation of settlers.

A new champion of puritan belief and practice, Jonathan Edwards, led the

first revival movement in America, which is known as the Great Awakening, in

the 1740’s. But some ministers considered the revival a sham and abandoned the

historic puritan emphasis upon the convertion experience. The doctrines of

election and original sin were gradually put aside, and through a slow process of

evolution Unitarianism emerged out of Congregationalism. The process was

completed in 1825.




Hypocrisy As The Negative Side of Puritanism

Another figure who plays important role in this drama of hypocrisy is

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Among puritan society he is known as a minister,

clergyman as well as a reputable scholar. His close study in Biblical text and his

profession as a clergyman make him a very respected and prestigious man amidst

his society.

. . . a young clergyman who had come from

one of the great English universities, bringing all

the learning of the age into our wild forest land.

His eloquence and religious fervor had already

given the earnest of high eminence in his


(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 72)


However, public opinion which regards him as having divine characters put him

into a dillema because himself, beyond their knowledge, is involved in adultery

case of Hester Prynne.

Rev. Dimmesdale’s life is always confronted with the dilemma and this

poor clergyman is invisibly sorrounded with complicated situation. First

complication which strikes his heart and soul is shown when he is invited by his

elderly Rev. John Wilson to handle Hester’s case and to persuade her to name her

sinner pertner, as can be seen in following quotation :

. . . here Mr. Wilson laid his hand on the

shoulder of pale young man beside him “I have

sought, I say, to persuade this godly youth that he

should deal with you.

. . .

“Good Master Dimmesdale,” said he, “the

responsibility of this woman’s soul lies greatly

with you. It behooves you, therefore, to exhort her

to repentance and to confession as a proof and

consequency thereof.”

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 71-72)


secret inside him and let the fear take control of himself, which one of the

indications is reflected on his pale face.

Contrary to his intellectual life and his dignity in Puritan society, Rev.

Dimmesdale shows himself a coward, unresponsible scholar. He does not have the

courage to be responsible for his sinful deed. His cowardice defeats the

enthusiasm; He always encourages to his congregation whenever he gives sermon

in his saintly church; His fear of the responsibility goes on preventing him for

making confession of his sin and makes him a perfect hyprocite. The fear than

becomes an illness and is reflected on his countenance :

Not with standing his high native gifts and scholar

like attainments, there was an air about this young

minister-an apprehensive, a starled, a

half-frightened look . . .

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 72)


worries him most about making the confession is the prospect of his society’s life.

Their love and compassion have been heavily dedicated to him.

Time and perseverance Rev. Dimmesdale spends for years in Biblical

study also compells him to retain his holliness and since public opinion on him is

tendentiously high, he chooses to keep secret unrevealed. He has a vision that

public life is more important than his private life. So he keep the hypocrisy alive

within himself by neglecting his moral feeling that he should share Hester’s

shame. However, Rev. Dimmesdale is fully aware about his being hyprocite as

can be seen in the following quotation :

I charge thee to speak out the name of thy

fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any

mistaken pity and tenderness of him; for, believe

me, Hester, though he were to step down from a

high place, and stand there beside thee on thy

pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to

hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy

silence do for him, except it tempt him—

yea, compel him, as it were-to add hypocrisy to



Rev. Dimmesdale realises his hypocrisy but he does not have the galantry to

confess. From above quotation we can also see that he asks Hester to confess first

while himself, although he say he is ready to lose his reputation, he is afraid

giving the first confession. The veneration he obtains from the public has caused

fights inside is very deep soul and it severely tortures him. He wishes he could

speak out from his pulpit at full height of his voice and tell the people who

himself is. He longs to tell the public that the pastor they revere and trust is not

more than just a pollution and a liar. Many time he tries to utter those words of

confession from the pulpit and promises to himself that he will not step down

before he can do it but he never makes it after all.

The conflicts inside Rev. Dimmesdale’s soul then transform themselves

into an invisible insecurity and cristalized an illness. His illness could physically

be seen from his frequent gesture of putting his hand upon his breast. The gesture

which he always makes whenever he appears before the public could be

interpreted as his suffering from torments of the guilt or as his effort to hide his

sinful deed. Obviously, his feeling of guilt tails him wherever he goes and

whatever he does and the poor clergyman who, basically possesses an over

softness, becomes very weak figure as he personally admits it :

“And I-how am I to live longer, breathing the

same dale, shrinking within himself, and pressing


that had grown involuntary with him. “Think for

me, Hester! Thou art strong. Resolve for me!”

. . .

“Be thou strong for me!” answered he, “Advise

me what to do.”

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 187)

His weakness in facing the reality and the consequence of his sinful deed which,

at the beginning, is shown from his reluctance to interfere in Hester’s adultery

case, than becomes extensive after the arrival of Roger Chillingworth whose real

identity is revealed by Hester to him. And as we can also see from above

quotation, Rev. Dimmesdale can only rely on Hester. Fearing Roger

Chillingworth’s further torments and terrorizing vengeance, Rev. Dimmesdale and

Hester plan a runaway to Bristol by sea.

One of the hidden positive impact found in Rev. Dimmesdal is that he

actually hates hypocrisy and loves the truth. That is why he hates himself for

being unable to fight againts fright and hyprocisy. His feeling of love and care do

not fade from his heart, either. He shows that he loves Pearl and Hester and sides

them when he and his fellow magistrates have a dispute over Pearl’s education.

He kisses Pearl when they take a walk in the forest and when he is about to release

his last breath on the scaffold.


“it cannot be!” answered the minister, listening

as if he were called upon the realize a dream. “I

am powerless to go! Wretched and sinful as I am,

I have had no other thought than to drag on my

earthly existence in the sphere where providence

hath placed me. Lost as my own soul is, I would

still do what I may for other human souls! I dare

not quit my post, though an unfaithful sentinel,

whose sure reward is death and dishonor, when

his dreary watch shall come to an end!”

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 168)



Arrogance As The Negative Side of Puritanism

As a woman brought up by a puritan family, Hester actually possesses

substantial faith and strong moral values implanted by her parents. Her happy

childhood in Old England, a city in Europe, was surrounded by religious people

living in houses pf gray stone and huge cathedrals in their environment as

symbols of their godly lives. However, as ordinary human being at an early stage,

she cannot resist the temptation when, for about two years she has to live alone as

a emigrant in New England without the control of her legal husband and she

commits an adultery. The adultery then become a black episode in the history of

Puritan society in the colony and to herself, it is a shame that she must burden int

her life time.

In spite of all the torments and disgraces acquired form her sinful deed,

Hester carries on. She does not lose the positive values of the teachings trained by

her parents. She still retains some through accounts, first, significant impact of the

Puritanistic teachings found in herself, is the courage to take the consequence of

her sinful deed.

Hester is not all afraid of the punishing and hostile eyes of the public

when, for the first time she is proclaimed an adulteress with the revelation of The

Scarlet Letter upon her bossom. She is so determined to take the punishment as

can be seen in the following quotation :

Stretching forth the official staff in his left hand,


thus drew forward; until, on the threshold of the

prison door, she repelled him, by an action

marked with natural dignity and force character,

and stepped into the open air, as if by her own

free will.

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 60)

From above quotation, we can also see that Hester is very prepared to face the

punishment. She also wants to show that she still has the dignity and does not

want to be treated low although she is a sinner woman.

Despite the severe punishment enforced by the society, Hester develops

her strong personality. She thinks what she has done is nothing wrong againts


She believes that God is the Supreme being who predestines everyone’s

destiny. Thus, to her, the punishment comes from God not from the society and it

is just something that becomes a part of her life. So she lives her life as if nothing

has happened. She doesn’t feel humble or ask the society around her to be

symphatized with her, either. She proves to be a tough woman who is not easily

shivered by curse of the public every time they stare at The Scarlet Letter on her

bosom or by the mockery of Puritan children whenever she and her daughter goes

out to take a walk.


She does not object to be kicked off the society and live in exile as an outcast. She

brings up her baby all by herself and earns a living with no one’s help nor

assistance. She could have asked Rev. Dimmesdale, her lover, to be responsible

and burden the disgrace together she does not do so. She looks onward herself and

realises that it is herself that is unable to resist the temptation and she tells herself

that what has happened is impossible to be altered. She would rather forget the

past and start all over again to build her future, especially for her daughter, than to

be drowned in gloom and misery. Hester is also very conscious that she cannot

depend on anybody because she has no relarive in the colony. But she is very

good at needlework. So with this talent, Hester earns a living and leads her

mournful life day by day.

Lonely as was Hester’s situation, and without a

friend on earth who dared to show himself, she,

however, incurred even no risk of want. She

possessed an art that sufficed, even in a land that

afforded comparatively. Little scope for its

exercise, to supply food for her thriving infant and



Above quotation shows us how Hester is so duty-bound for her daughter and she

indicates that anybody must be responsible for he or she has done no matter how

hard the situation is.

It is also noted that Hester pays special attention to the education of her

daughter. She is very sure that even a condemned and dirty women like her still

can give proper education to her daughter as a part of her responsibility. Hester

shows this by insisting on having her daughter, Pearl, educated by herself rather

than let the authority takes care of Pearl, as can be seen in the following quotation


“I can teach my little Pearl what I have learned

from this!” answered Hester Prynne, laying her

finger on the red token.

. . . .

“Nevertheless,” said the mother calmly, though

growing more pale, “this badge that taught me-it

daily teaches me-it is teaching me at this

moment-lessons where of my child may be the wiser and

better, albeit they can profit nothing to my self”

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 110)


to the society that women are also able to do what men can do and she proclaims

that both men and women have the same right to do what they want.

Apart from puritanistic teaching that one should be educated to avoid

illiteracy and to be able to read Bible, Hester wants to educate her daughter in the

right way so that her daughter will not do the same mistake and inherit the

disgrace commited by her mother. To Hester, the teaching of moral values is more

important that secular indoctrination which always blinds the society around her

who frequently punish the sinners with the laws, the constitute awkardly. Hester

has seen that the punishment carried out by the society are nothing but

enforcements the power of the magistrates or authority which always torment and

causes mental breakdown to the culprits instead of correcting their conduct or



in facing her life and take it as a sacrifice that she must offer. She understands

why people behave in such ways to againts herself and she restrains herself from

responding too much or too far to want people do to her because she is afraid that

her utterance or acts would turn into a curse instead. This can be seen in the

following quotation :

She was petient-a martyr, indeed but she forbore

to pray for her enemies lest, in spite of her

forgiving aspirations, the words of the blessing

should stubbornly twist themselves into a curse.

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 88)

So, there goes Hester tranquil life in her decayed cottage. She does not care too

much what people say or do to her. She has gathered all patience as a shield to

protect her from public despise and condemnation.

Hester’s being an outcast, living away from the society then amazingly

turns to be a blessing in disguise. She becomes a humble and charitable woman.

Her charity is noteable from following quotation :

Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in

charity, on wretches less miserable than herself,

and who not unfrequently insulted the hand than

fed them.


Hester could have applied her time on doing her needlework for money but she

makes clothes for the poor. She does so because she wants to pay for her sin. She

is ready to sacrifice everything including her worldly happiness and no matter

how much it takes. Until then people change the image of the Scarlet Letter from

originally a symbol of adultery into a more reputable one, “Able”. This is all

because of the feminim ability which she has. Even, then people forgive Hester

for her weakness and mistakes when commiting adultery and immediately they

welcome her as a part of the society:

The change of public image about Hester can be seen in the following

quotation :

Such helpfulness was found in her so much power

to do and power to symphatize-that many people

refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original

signification. They said that it meant “Able”; so

strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s


. . . .

“it is out Hester-the town owns Hester-who is so

kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so

comforting to the afflicted!”


Cruel treatment of the society and the authority does not influence Hester’s

character. She goes on proving herself to be a forgiving and compassionate

woman. She fully understands that Rev. Dimmesdale has a share in the shame she

burden from the Scarlet Letter which everlastingly sticked upon her bosom but as

she can feel ho Rev. Dimmesdale has to fight againts the torment and suffering,

she declines from taking any revenge on anybody and shows her compassion

instead. She knows that there is only one way out to save her lover, Rev.

Dimmesdale, from the torment which gradually kills him. Her compassion then

defeats her and she breaks her promise to her ex husband, Roger Chillingworth,

by revealing his identity to her lover, Rev. Dimmesdale. Following quotation

shows how much Hester concerns about Rev. Dimmesdale and how sorry she

feels for him :

She had witnessed the intense misery beneath

which the minister, struggled, or, to speak more

accurately, had ceased to struggly. She saw that

he stood on the verge of lunacy, . . .

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 160)


her spiritual guide, Rev. Dimmesdale. Her sinful deed which then brings shame to

her whole life is really againts the laws of puritan society although later she

consciously admits her betrayal as can be seen in the following quotation :

“I have greatly wronged thee,” murmused Hester.

. . .

“Wherefor does thou desire it.” Inguired Hester,

shrinking, she hardly knew why, form this secret


“Why not announce thyself openly, and cast me

off at once”.

(Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1959, p. 64)






Hypocricy is a kind of dishonest manner which is similar to lying concept.

It is a coward attitude that stands behind the truth of what is done wrongly.

Hypocrite manner is an escape from what should be by pretending to do

something right. It can be seen from what Arthur Dimmedale has done. He

preaches that man must be free from sin to his congregation from the pulpit,

anyhow, he is not tightly doing what he has said. He fails to understand what life

is by directing Hester Prynne as his victim.

Hester is the target of big lies of the puritanistic teaching which are not

consequently performed in the real life. Hypocricy has destroyed her life because

of her weakness to sustain her marriage life. The adultery is asymbol of betrayal

towards the hypocricy of man’s behavior under the puritanistic dogmas.

Arrogance relates to authority that victimizes the weak. It is a sort of pride

that shows one’s authorized power on the other. Arthur Dimmedale’s arrogance is

to let Hester comes throuh the temptation without any defense from him as a

preacher. He enjoys his authority because of his power towards the weak. The

sense of arrogance has the negative tendency on overturning what is righ to be

wrong and vice versa. It is a social sickness that tends to break the rule only

because of having authrity and power.


They are supposed to be natural because they are not afraid anymor to God’s

power. What they fear is the people around them. Thus, hypocricy and arrogance

attitudes are the negative sides of puritanistic teachings because people are nnot

able to be pure or free from sinful deeds absolutely.



Literary work is a kind of social communication that needs reading

seriously. It summarizes the man’s life experience that needs to be shared here

and after. It is a product of the


that needs understanding


so we can

anticipate the



The Scarlet Letter

is a humanistic novel that concerns with

man’s life and problem. So, it is full with insights to deal with.



Bode, Carl. 1969.

The Highlights Of American Literature

. Washington: Usis.

Dryden, Edger A. 1977.

Nathaniel Hawthorne.

United Kingdom: Cornel

University Press Ltd.

Fleming, Andrew I. M. 1921.

The Founding of New England.



Hawthorne, Nathaniel. 1959.

The Scarlet Letter.

Boston, Massachusetts: The

New American Library.

Leary, Lewis. 1971.

Criticism Some Mayor American Writers.

U.S.A: Holt.

Rinehart and Winston Inc.

Martin, Jay. 1967.

A Critical Study of Nathaniel Hawthorne and His “The

Scarlet Letter”

. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Seligman, Edwin R. A. 1935.

Encyclopedia of the Social Science vol. 9.


York: The Macmillan Company.

Shaw, Harry. 1972.

Concise dictionary of literary terms

. New York:


Stanton, Robert. 2007.

Teori Fiksi

. Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar Offset.



Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Biography

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born at Salem in Massachusetts on July 4, 1804.

He was a direct descendant of William Hawthorne, notorious for his persecution

of the Quakers, and of his son John, a prominent figure in the late seventeenth

century witch hunts. When Nathaniel was four years old his father, a sea captain,

died of yellow fewer while in Dutch Guiana. Then he lived with his mother

family, manning family in Maine. He was a very serious man. When he was

fourteen years old, Hawthorne sometimes went to Salem for studying and working

as a keeper book here and sometimes he was thinking of becoming an author.


edited but also wrote and complied whole of every publication. Hawthorne tried to

publish his Twice Told Tales which regarded as an unvaluable work by the

English writer in 1837. He is done all the things above because of his lack of

money. With the help of his friend, Horatio Bridge, it was success to be published

together with his another literary works. He is more creative in writing and at the

same year, Franklin Pierce proposed him as his torigrapher for South Seas

Expedition, but it was fail. In 1839 – 1840, he earned forliving in Boston Custom

House, and then tried communal living for several months in 1841 at Brook Farm.

Neither the Customs House nor Brook Farm had enable to lead him to the real

world. He was a very disappointed.

He married to Sophia Amelia Peabody on July 9, 1842 in Salem. After the

married they moved to old Manse in Concord which they rented from Emerson

and where they remained until 1845. From this marriage they had their children,

Julian Rose and Una. Hawthorne lived happily, although economically they had

been decrased because of his passiveness in writing. Hawthorne removed his

family to Salem in 1845, tried to become post master, and instead was appointed

surveyor of the Custom House in Salem, where he remained until 1849. Before

losing his job in Salem, he wrote Mosses An Old Manse in 1846 together with

some other stories. The Scarlet Letter, 1850, was gis first succesful novel. The

novel which written by Hawthorne brought him much money and got increased in

reputation. He then bought a house, known as wayside, in Concord.


uninterested in politics but he felt than he should help the man who had most

aided him. So he wrote The Life of Franklin Pierce in 1852. And when Franklin

won as a president, he became United States consult at Liverpool. During the

whole of life he stay in England from 1853 until 1856, and 1858 until 1859 he

lived in Italy where he felt most at home among the American and British resident

and travellers. When after another year in England, he came back to Concord in




This story is excavated from Hawthorne’s finding during his

three-year-experience working for The Salem Custom House, Massachusetts. One day when

he is not occupied with work, he happens to dig down old documents and finds a

bundle of papers of Mr. Surveyor Jonathan Pue which contains personal

documents. What attracts him most is a piece of red cloth with golden thread

knitting on its four edges and a letter “A” from which then this story flows down.

One morning in summer in 1640’s in a place called Cornhill, the people of

Boston flock together. They are from all walks of life. There is a cluster of

bearded men wearing fadecolored clothes and grey hats on their heads. These men

associate with women, some wearing hoods and others bare headed. They

assemble in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which is heavily timbered with

oak and sudden with iron spikes. Exactly they are standing in a grass plot before

the jail, in Prison Lane, waiting for something horrible.


heterodox religionist, is to be scourged out of the town, or an idle and vagrant

indian, whom the white man’s liquor has made riotous about the streets, is to be

driven with stripes into the forest. It might be, too, that a witch, like old Mistress

Hibbins the bitter-tempered widow, is to die upon the gallows. Whatever the case

is, the spectators seems to have some cold attitude. One thing should be noted at

time, both mild and severe acts of public crime are alike made venerable and


Some women who are amidst the throng obviously pay special attention to

the punishment which is about to take place. They have equal freedom as men

amidst the society and to mingle in the front most to witness the punishment.

They speak in high tone that would startle us and at times utter bold speech.


The a man among the crowd asks the women to shut up as the door of the

prison is open now. A beadle appears like black shadow. A sword is by his side

and his stuff of office is in his hand. His countenance is tight and hard. As hard as

the laws of puritan. With his right hand he pushes Hester’s shoulder who is now

walking in front of him.


Some women of the crowd feel jealous of Hester’s talent of needlework.

To them, by showing her ability, Hester is intentionally trying to laugh in the face

of their magistrates. Now the procession goes on. The beadle carries on driving

Hester to the place set for her punishment. There, on the scaffold at the market

place, Hester will undergo the punishment. Under the daylight to reveal the scarlet

letter to the public.

The punishment for Hester is that she has to stand on the scaffold for a few

hours. But she does not have to face the most terrible punishment of that time,

rope around the neck and black cloth sack which usually used by those face life

sentence. The scaffold is as high as man’s shoulder and since Hester has already

known the kind of her punishment, she ascends and now everybody can see her.

The presence of the governor and his staff, the judges and the generals seems to

prevent the spectators from saying bad words or scorning Hester. They all

seriously, though look gloomy, pay attention to the procession. The sinner, Hester,

tries as best as she can to stand like a lady againts thousand of eyes which are

fixed to the scarlet letter upon her bosom. She seems to be well-prepared to face

this punishment eventhough her heart sometimes wants to shout and to throw

himself off the scaffold or, of she could, she wish she were insane.


marked place of the puritan settlement. All towns people assemble with their stern

look upon Hester who stand on the scaffold, a baby on her arm, and the letter “A”

in scarlet, fantastically embroidered with gold thread, upon her bosom. Hester

almost can not believe her eyes. She hold the baby closely to her breast so fiercely

that it sends out a cry. Then she turns her eyes down to the letter, touches it with

her finger to ensure herself that they baby and the disgrace are real. Yes, this is the

reality she faces now and all her other imagination have gone.

Concious of being the object of public observation for sometimes, Hester

then feel herself relieved and turn her sight to a direction where she catches a sight

of figure of a white man, standing apart from the crowd. He is accompanied by an

Indian. He is small with furrowed face which reflect out standing intelligence.

Although this man tries to conceal under his garment, Hester can notice clearly

that one of this man’s shoulder rise higher that the other. Yes, Hester now

understands that this man is her husband who left her several years ago. And has

paid attention to Hester since the first time he arrived at the market place. First

with only a little care but later his sharp eyesight penetrates Hester’s heart.

Although there is a kind of horror on his face, he can control himself and whes

Hester’s eyes fasten on his own and he realises that Hester recognises him, he

slowly and calmly raises his finger and put in on his lips, make a gesture as if to

tell Hester to keep quiet.


the heaten folk. From the native he finds out that the woman standing on the

scaffold is Hester Prynne. She has to stand on the scaffold because of a scandal

she commits in Masters Dimmesdale’s church. She is a wife of an English scholar

who has long lived in Amsterdam who plans to move to this Massachusetts

colony while her husband himself has to do something important in Europe.

Hesters has been a resident of Boston for two years but she still heard nothing of

her husband.

The man now understands that the baby in Hester’s arms is the result of an

adultery. Now he is disappointed and angry with the father of the baby, who has

caused and tempted Hester to commit the sin but who is not responsible. He tells

himself that he must find who this man is.

Back on the scaffold, witnessed by Governor and sergeants who sit on the

balcony, the elderly Reverend John Wilson calls out Hester’s name. with him is

younger Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale who has been appointed consultant to assist

Hester and to persuade her to confess. But Hester does not want to tell anybody

the name of the father of the baby although Reverend Dimmesdale keeps on


When returned the prison, Hester’s condition is very weak and she is

shocked that continuous guard is needed to prevent Hester from hurting herself or

the poor baby.