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Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin is one of the first female writers to address female issues, primarily
sexuality. Chopin declares that women are capable of overt sexuality in which they
explore and enjoy their sexuality. Chopin shows that her women are capable of loving
more than one man at a time. They are not only attractive but sexually attracted (Ziff
148). Two of Chopin’s stories that reflect this attitude of sexuality are The Awakening
and one of her short stories “The Storm”. Although critics now acclaim these two stories
as great accomplishments, Chopin has been condemned during her life for writing such
vulgar and risqu pieces. In 1899 Chopin publishes The Awakening. She is censured for
its “positively unseemly” theme (Kimbel 91). Due to the negative reception of The
Awakening Chopin never tries to publish “The Storm”. She feels that the literary
establishment can not accept her bold view of human sexuality (Kimbel 108). Chopin
definitely proves to be an author way ahead of her time. The Awakening is considered to
be Chopin’s best work as well as a unlikely novel to be written during the 1890s in
America. The Awakening is a story about a woman, Edna Pontelier, who is a
conventional wife and mother. Edna experiences a spiritual awakening in the sense of
independence that changes her life. Edna Pontellier begins her awakening at the Grand
Isle when Harmon 2 she is 28 years old. She has been married for ten years, and she has
two children. This situation proves to be different from the male characters of most other
novels because they almost always do not have to face the complications of marriage and
parenthood to reach self-determination (Bogarad 159). Chopin is able to portray this
awakening through Edna’s relationships with her husband, children, Alcee, and Robert.

Kate Chopin always writes about marital instability in her fiction (Wilson 148). The first
way in which Chopin is able to portray an awakening by Edna is through her relationship
with her husband, Leonce. Chopin describes Leonce as a likable guy. He is a successful
businessman, popular with his friends, and devotes himself to Edna and the children
(Spangler 154). Although Edna’s marriage to Leonce is “purely and accident”, he
“pleases her” and his “absolute devotion flattered her” (Chopin 506). However, it is
clearly obvious to the reader the Leonce acts as the oppressor of Edna (Allen 72). When
the reader first sees them together, Leonce is looking at his wife as “a valuable piece of
personal property which has suffered some damage” (Chopin 494). The most important
aspect to Leonce is making money and showing off his wealth. He believes his wife’s
role to be caring for him and his children. Therefore, the first step toward her freedom is
to be free of his rule. Edna is able to accomplish this first by denying Leonce the
submissiveness which he is accustomed to. She does this by abandoning her Tuesday
visitors, she makes no attempt to keep an organized household, and she comes and goes
as she pleases (Chopin 536). The next big step in gaining her freedom from her husband
is when she moves into a house of her own while Leonce is away taking of business. She
does not even wait to see what his opinion of the Harmon 3 matter is (Chopin 558). It is
quite evident the only thing Leonce worries about is what people are going to say.

Therefore, he begins to remodel the house so it does not appear that Edna has left him.

“Mr. Pontellier had saved appearances!” (Chopin 565). Leonce never really understands
what happens to his marriage with Edna. Instead he has to face the fact that he as well as
the children are of no consequence to his wife (Spangler 154). There is also the fact that
divorce is not a consideration because in the 1890s this right has not been generally
recognized. The reader must understand that as a matter of historical fact her options are
different from modern ones (Allen 72). Secondly, Edna must become free from her
children. For many years Edna has been a good mother, but now she sees her boys as an
opposition. Therefore, she refuses to live for them, but rather for herself (Seyersted 151).

While at the Grand Isle Edna tells one of her good friends, Madame Ratignolle, that she
“would give my life for my children; but I would not give myself” (Chopin 529). Edna
believes that she can direct her own life, but she also acknowledges her responsibility
toward her children. She knows how the patriarchal society condemns a freedom-seeking
women who neglects her children (Seyersted 62). The reader also comes to know Adele
Ratignolle well. As a friend of Edna’s, she represents the exact opposite. Chopin portrays
Adele as being totally devoted mother to her family and happy of her domestic lifestyle.

She has a baby every two years. Although Adele shows her unselfishness in her care for
the children, she also uses her children in order to draw attention to herself (Seyersted
152). Until Edna goes to one of Adele’s childbirths she still believes that she has the
ability to direct her own life. Adele reminds Edna of the mother’s duties toward her
children (Chopin 578). This event allows Edna it realize her view of her possibilities for
a Harmon 4 self-directed life (Seyersted 151). Therefore, she finds her power to dictate
her own life to be nothing but an illusion (Seyersted 62). The next way Chopin is able to
portray Edna’s sense of freedom is through her relationships with Alcee Arobin and
Robert Lebrun. Edna likes Alcee’s company because he is charming, attentive, amusing,
and a person of the world. He is a sexual partner who does not ask for, receive, or give
love. When Edna kisses Alcee she is awakened to the idea that sex and love can be
separated. Although she loves Robert truly, she separates her feelings for Robert in order
to control her desire (Bogarad 160). Edna first meets Robert Lebrun during her summer
stay at the Grand Isle. At the summer’s end Edna goes home and Robert goes to Mexico
for business. When Robert returns because business does not go as he plans, Robert and
Edna are together. However, Edna does not feel the closeness at first that she expects and
in some way he “had seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico” (Chopin 572). Although
they do finally confess their mutual love, they know they can never be together in reality
because of Leonce (Spangler 154). Robert knows he can not return the love to Edna
which she gives him because he only feels free to love Edna when there is no risk
involved (Bogarad 160). Robert does love and wants Edna, but he can not bring himself
to join in Edna’s rebellion to break up the sacraments of marriage (Bogarad 161). In
reality the men of her life split her. “Robert sees her as a angel, and Alcee sees her as a
whore” (Bogarad 160). Edna does awaken to her true love for Robert, but uses Alcee as a
convenience (Arms 149). This type of behavior of a women during this time is unheard
of. The last way Chopin is able to explore Edna’s independence and awakening is by her
tragic death. At the end of the novel Edna is very upset Harmon 5 that she loses Robert.

There is “no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert”, but she also
realizes that there will be a day where “the thought of him would melt out of her
existence, leaving her alone” (Chopin 581). Edna goes to the sea and “for the first time in
her life” stands naked in the open air. “She felt like some new-born creature, opening its
eyes in a familiar world that is had never known” (Chopin 582). Edna feels that she can
not sacrifice herself to the consequences of sexual activity, and she also is not willing to
live without these experiences. Therefore, Edna drowns herself (Allen 72). She realizes
nature and man dictate the life of a woman, and to be independent is much harder to
obtain for woman than a man (Seyersted 62). In the development of a male novel the
reader expects the man to make the stoic choice and in a female novel a women the
reader expects the female to come to her senses, returning to the cycle of marriage and
motherhood. However, Edna chooses neither, and this is the point of Chopin’s novel
(Bogarad 161). Another story which Chopin is able to express her attitude toward
sexuality is “The Storm. Although “The Storm” is today considered a well-written short
story, Chopin never publishes it in the 1890s because it is so daring (Kauffmann 62).

“The Storm”, written six years later, is the sequel to the short story “At the ‘Cadian Ball”
(Skaggs 91). “The Storm” is divided into five scenes. In the first scene the reader finds
Calixta’s husband, Bobinot, and their son, Bibi, waiting out a storm at Friedheimer’s
store (Chopin 490). In the second scene Alcee takes shelter at Bobinot’s home, where
Calixta is home alone (Chopin 491). In this second scene Chopin uses dialogue to portray
a growing sexual desire for one another (Kimbel 108). Chopin describes Calixta’s lips
“as red and moist as pomegranate seed” (Chopin 491). She describes their sexual
encounter in great detail. Calixta releases a Harmon 6 “generous abundance of her
passion,” which is like ” a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of
his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.” She also uses the vivid words,
“he possessed her” to describe in great detail the actual sex act (Chopin 492). No other
author of this time uses such language to describe the act of sex (Jones 82). In the third
scene the storm is over and Alcee rides off to his destination. Bobinot and Bibi return
home to find Calixts in an unusual good mood. They eat supper and the evening ends in
much happiness. The fourth and fifth scenes reveal a great deal about Alcee and his
relationship with his wife, Clarisse. In the fourth scene Alcee writes Clarisse a loving
letter telling her “not to hurry back,” but “stay a month longer” if she wishes. In the fifth
scene Clarisse receives the letter. The reader finds out that Clarisse is “charmed upon
receiving her husband’s letter” yet relieved to forgo “their intimate conjugal life” for a
while. The ending proves to be very ironic. Although an affair has taken place, one may
expect for them to get caught and the marriages be broken up. However, “the storm had
passed and everyone was happy” (Chopin 493). Calixta’s adulterous experience is
accidental and innocent. The affair seems to refresh both marriages, Alcee’s and
Calizta’s. Chopin’s theme here again is that “freedom nourishes”. “The Storm” is
remarkable considering that it is written in the 1890s and for the use of the controversial
language which unites humans in sexual ways. The story reveals Kate Chopin’s desire
“of women’s renewal birthright for passionate self-fulfillment” (Bogarad 158). In
conclusion, Kate Chopin breaks a new ground in American Literature. She is the first
woman writer in the country to express passion as a subject to be taken seriously. She
revolts against tradition and authority in order to give Harmon 7 people the realization
about women’s submerged life. She also is the pioneer of the “amoral treatment of
sexuality, of divorce, and of women’s urge for an existential authenticity” (Seyested
153). In The Awakening and the short story “The Storm” Chopin implies that sex, even
outside marriage can be enjoyable without any personal guilt and without harming others
to whom one is emotionally and legally bound (Jones 80). Furthermore, Chopin is “at
least a decade ahead of her time” and “one of the American realists of the 1890s”
(Seyersted 153). Although first condemned for her controversial novels and short stories,
Kate Chopin, is able to lay the foundation for the theme of women’s sexual independence
for many authors
A Comparison of Hawthorne’s Works
In both of Hawthorne’s short stories and The
Scarlet Letter, the author uses distinct symbolisms that have more than one meaning. In
The Scarlet Letter, the red rose bush and the weeds located at the entrance of the prison
symbolize both good and evil. Throughout the novel, the rose bush represents Pearl, and
how good things can come out of bad experiences. Hawthorne suggests the red rose as
being “some sweet moral blossom”, and represents Hester’s relationship as a love both
good and bad. Also in The Scarlet Letter, the letter “A” symbolizes more than one thing.

The first and clearest form of the letter is that of “Adultery”. It is apparent that Hester is
guilty of cheating on her husband when she surfaces from the prison with a
three-month-old-child in her arms, while her husband has been away for two years. The
second form that it takes is “Angel.” When Governor Winthrop passes away, a giant “A”
appears in the sky. People from the church feel that, “For as our good Governor Winthrop
was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some
notice thereof!” The final form that the scarlet letter take is “Able.” Hester helped the
people of the town so unselfishly that Hawthorne wrote that because such helpfulness
was found in her, “The people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original
significance”. They said that it meant Able; “So strong was Hester Prynne, with a
woman’s strength.” While the letter “A” is a most complex and misunderstood symbol,
Pearl is even more so. Throughout the story, she develops into a dynamic symbol – one
that is always changing. God’s treatment of Hester for her sin was quite different than just
a physical token: He gave Hester the punishment of bearing a very unique child which
she named Pearl. This punishment handed down from God was a constant mental and
physical reminder to Hester of what she had done wrong, and she could not escape it. In
this aspect, Pearl symbolized God’s way of punishing Hester for adultery. In Hawthorne’s
short stories, The Minister’s Black Veil, in particular, the black veil worn by the minister
suggests more than one meaning. It shows sin, darkness, concealment, and death all in
one. Therefore, Hawthorne consistently used symbols that had more than one purpose
and meaning for both the novel and the short stories. The mood indicated in The Scarlet
Letter and in the short stories is relatively dismal and gloomy, and there is minimal
difference between them. In both works, death is included, making it depressing. In The
Scarlet Letter, there are love struggles, like that shown between Hester and Reverend
Dimmesdale. In the stories, there are some struggles and romance as well. In Dr.

Heidegger’s Experiment, there were the young men fighting over the young beautiful
lady, and in The Minister’s Black Veil, there is love between the minister and his fiance.

Because of his concealment of his sin, she refused to marry him, but nevertheless stood
beside him at his deathbed. These present a romantic and lusty mood, and also sadness
because of concealment of sin. Nathaniel Hawthorne is a very good author, and tends to
write in the same fashion for all of his works. His details, use of words, and themes come
together to make great stories.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Stephen Dedalus, the main character in most of James Joyce’s writings, is said to be a
reflection of Joyce himself. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the reader follows
Stephen as he develops from a young child into a young artist, overcoming many
conflicts both internally and externally, and narrowly escaping a life long commitment to
the clergy. Through Joyce’s use of free indirect style, all of Stephen’s speech, actions,
and thoughts are filtered through the narrator of the story. However, since Joyce so
strongly identifies with Stephen, his character’s style and personality greatly influence
the narrator. This use of free indirect style and stylistic contagion makes Joyce’s use of
descriptive language one of his most valuable tools in accurately depicting Stephen
Dedalus’s developing ideals of feminine beauty. As a very young child Stephen is taught
to idealize the Virgin Mary for her purity and holiness. She is described to Stephen as “a
tower of Ivory” and a “House of Gold” (p.35). Stephen takes this literally and becomes
confused as to how these beautiful elements of ivory and gold could make up a human
being. This confusion is important in that it shows Stephen’s inability to grasp
abstraction. He is a young child who does not yet understand how someone can say one
thing and mean something else. This also explains his trouble in the future with solving
the riddles and puzzles presented to him by his classmates at Clongowes. Stephen is very
thoughtful and observant and looks for his own way to explain or rationalize the things
that he does not understand. In this manner he can find those traits that he associates with
the Blessed Mary in his protestant playmate Eileen. Her hands are “long and white and
thin and cold and soft. That was ivory: a cold white thing. That was the meaning of
Tower of Ivory” (p.36). “Her fair hair had streamed out behind her like gold in the sun”
(p.43). To Stephen that is the meaning of House of Gold. He then attributes Eileen’s
ivory hands to the fact that she is a girl and generalized these traits to all females. This
produces a major conflict for Stephen when his tutor, Dante, tells him not to play with
Eileen because she is a Protestant and Protestants don’t understand the Catholic faith and
therefore will make a mockery of it. His ideas about women being unattainable are
confirmed. The Virgin Mary is divine and therefore out of reach for mortals. Now Eileen,
the human representation of the Blessed Mary, is out of reach as well because Stephen is
not allowed to play with her. In chapter two an amazing transformation takes place in
Stephen from a young innocent child who believes women are unattainable and who
idealizes the Virgin Mary, into a young teen with awakening sexual desires. As Stephen
matures into adolescence, he becomes increasingly aware of his sexuality, which at times
is confusing to him. At the beginning of the second chapter in A Portrait, we find Stephen
associating feminine beauty with the heroine Mercedes in Alexander Dumont Pere’s The
Count of Monte Cristo. “Outside Blackrock, on the road that led to the mountains, stood
a small whitewashed house in the garden of which grew many rosebushes: and in this
house, he told himself, another Mercedes lived….there appeared an image of himself,
grown older and sadder, standing in a moonlit garden with Mercedes who had so many
years before slighted his love…”(p. 62-3). These fantasies about Mercedes are the first
real step for Stephen in challenging the church’s view of women, but again he feels as
though this image of women is out of his reach. She is a fictional character in a Romantic
Adventure novel and he can only imagine himself with her. Although Mercedes may not
be real, the feelings that Stephen has and the emotions she provokes in him are very real.

“…As he brooded upon her image, a strange unrest crept into his blood.” (p.64). “…but a
premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of
his, encounter him… and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be
transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a
moment, he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall
from him that magic moment.” (p.65). Stephen realizes that some transformation is going
to take place, and Joyce emphasizes the words “transfigured” and “moment” to indicate
the kind of impact it will have on Stephen. At this point in the novel, Stephen attributes
this “premonition” to his attraction to young Emma Clery. “…Amid the music and
laughter her glance traveled to his corner, flattering, taunting, searching, exciting his
heart.” “…Sprays of her fresh warm breath flew gaily above her cowled head and her
shoes tapped blithely on the glassy road.” (p. 69). As they wait for the last tram from a
Christmas party “His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon a tide.” Joyce
carefully uses these words to ease the reader into the transition to sensual imagery to
portray females. These words convey Stephen’s feelings of excitement, and a new
conflict arises within him. He who still believes in the Catholic view of divine women
now feels troubled over his growing sexual drives. Stephen realizes that she is flirting
with him by the way she “urges her vanities” yet he is tempted to call her on it. He wants
to hold on to her and kiss her and he associates the whole situation with the way in which
Eileen had suddenly run down the path in a peal of laughter hoping he would chase her.

The conflict within Stephen whether or not to kiss Emma stems from his continuing
religious beliefs that women are holy and not to be defiled, and like with Mercedes, he is
forced to be content in fulfilling his wishes only in his head. This encounter with Emma
does place females at a slightly more attainable level for Stephen and we are able to see
how it begins to shape his ultimate ideals of feminine beauty. However connected to the
church Stephen feels, it is impossible for him to just push these feelings away from
himself and ignore them. He decides to write a poem about Emma Clery and for the first
time, we see Stephen successfully use art as a means of expression and relief. In his
poem which is modeled after one from his favorite poet, Byron, he acts out what he
wishes he would have done and that is to give Emma a kiss. Again this illustrates a side
of Stephen that is not comfortable with abstraction. He has not yet come to the
realization that he is not unlike other boys his age. This poem which is addressed to
E____C____, starts out with Ad Majorem Dei Gloriem, a Latin phrase meaning, “For the
Greater Glory of God” and ends with Laus Deo Semper meaning, “Praise to God
Always”. This is especially interesting because the poem merges both religion and art
without Stephen’s knowledge that this is where the heart of the conflict lies. It becomes
an even greater conflict for Stephen when, as time passes, he finds it more and more
difficult to resist the temptations of his sexual urges. He mentally defiles “with patience
whatever image had attracted his eyes” (p.99) and turns those images which had been
innocent by day into cunning and sinful images at night. His urges grow and become so
strong that Stephen is no longer able to resist temptation and crosses that line into
wretched sinner. The next major step in Stephen’s transformation is his visit to the
prostitute. The setting for this visit carries all of the elements of a Black Mass. “Women
and girls dressed in long vivid gowns traversed the street…The yellow gasflames arose
before his troubled vision against the vapoury sky, burning as if before an altar.” (p.100).

The long vivid gowns of the women and girls could be like those of the priests and the
yellow gasflames are meant to conjure up images of decay upon the altar. As the
prostitute approaches Stephen, Joyce uses the word “detain” to show how the prostitute
may have held Stephen against his will. This word becomes significant later on in
Stephen’s discussion with the priest in chapter five as the priest tells Stephen the
difference between the traditional use of the word detain and it’s use in the marketplace.

Virgin Mary was “detained in the full company of the saints” (p.188) is different from “I
hope I am not detaining you” (p.188). In this way, Joyce implies that Stephen was
seduced by the prostitute and attempted to resist her up until the very last moment before
she kissed him. Stephen does not make a move towards the prostitute, but instead waits
in the middle of the room until she comes to him. He will not bend to kiss her. He feels
reassured by her embrace and longed for her to just hold and caress him. Perhaps he
regarded her as a mother figure and he gained strength from this encounter. Joyce’s
description of the room, the obscene doll with it’s legs spread, the way the prostitute
lures him in and bends his lips to hers for him gives the reader the impression that
Stephen is an innocent and the prostitute is the sinner. This scene puts a new perspective
on that holy image of women for Stephen. It is a sharp contrast to those ideas of holiness
and purity and innocent shyness that he associated with Emma, and of course, the
Blessed Mary. It is even a contradiction to the image he had of Mercedes. Although this
encounter awakens a sense of freedom in Stephen that he will not be able to suppress
later on in the novel, he still cannot help but feel overwhelming guilt about what he has
done. At the retreat, he listens to Father Arnell’s sermon about hell that seems to be
targeted directly at him, turning his tremendous guilt into fear. He has failed to avoid sin
and for that he will suffer the most horrible fate that anyone could ever
imagine…spending eternity in hell. He feels so ashamed that he is unable to repent in his
own church at Clongowes, but rather wishes to find a place as far removed from the
college as possible. This shame and guilt makes him vulnerable when the director at
Clongowes confronts him about becoming a priest. He envisions the power he would
have and thinks that if he were a priest that his superior piety would save him from the
wrath of hell. For him it seemed the only plausible escape. His experience with the
prostitute is essential in Stephen’s reanalysis of his attraction to Emma Clery. He realizes
now that her flirtatious gestures were not reserved for him alone, and he suspected that
she flaunted her charm to many men. He becomes angry at the idea that women did not
remain pure for their own sake, but only out of their religious fear that their souls would
be damned if they sinned against the church. This point seems to be the height of
Stephen’s confusion until his encounter with the Bird Girl, the final step in his complete
transfiguration into the artist. While waiting for his father outside the publichouse,
Stephen wandered on to Bull to reflect and to escape the anxiety he felt waiting to hear
word about the university. He heard a few of his classmates calling out to him and the
sounds of his own name made him think of the mythical Dedalus. Like the myth, Stephen
wanted to fly up like a bird. This may be a foreshadowing of Stephen’s leaving Ireland
and flying past the “nets” which would hold him back. He feels as though he is being
reborn into adulthood and has finally reached that point in his life where he is capable of
fulfilling his calling in life. This calling that he feels is unlike anything that has ever
spoken to him before and it invokes in him an incredible freedom of spirit. As his mind,
body and soul are still soaring from this “ecstasy of flight”, he repeatedly mentions that
he is alone. He is happy and free, but he is alone. Then he sees her. “A girl stood before
him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic
had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird.” (p.171). The imagery in
the following passage and the particular words Joyce uses to present that imagery are
very meaningful. The girl is the perfect balance between Stephen’s two extreme ideas of
women. “Her thighs, fuller and softhued as ivory, were bared almost to the
hip…”(p.171). She is “delicate” and “pure” and she has all the qualities of innocent
virginity, but at the same time, she exposes her flesh in a sensual manner and exhibits a
“mortal beauty”. Stephen’s comparison of her to a crane and a dove shows an important
relationship between the girl and Stephen’s freedom. She was neither virgin nor whore.

She was attainable. “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life! A wild
angel had appeared to him…” (p.172). She certainly seemed divine to Stephen who
associated her presence to the calling of a life of art. He knows immediately that if he
had been destined to a life in the church that this would have been the kind of calling he
should have experienced. Instead he realizes that he cannot become a priest because he is
unable to adhere to those physiological restrictions demanding of the profession. He has
also discovered that to err is human and to have desires of the flesh is natural. He is no
longer disgusted by human desires and realizes how beautiful love, passion, and devotion
can be from an artist’s perspective. Stephan Dedalus’s transformation into a “priest of the
arts” is parallel to the early life of James Joyce. Both struggle to deal with the conflicts of
childhood and adolescence to find a balance in which they can happily live. Since A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is written in third person, yet employs the
characteristics of the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, the use of descriptive language is
essential to the reader’s understanding of the novel as a whole. James Joyce excellently
uses his talent to successfully communicate Stephen’s feelings so that we, the reader, can
understand the development of his attitudes and ideals about feminine beauty.
Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
“The common definition says that a symbol is a sign or token of something… We take
symbols like these pretty much for granted. They are a part of everyday experience. In
literature, matters are a little more complicated. Literary symbols usually don’t have
instantly recognizable meanings. Rather they take their meanings from the work of which
they are part” (“The Scarlet Letter” 8). An example of symbols that most take for granted
would be the rosebush, which Hawthorne selects a flower from as an offering to the
reader, to the elfish child Pearl, to the scarlet letter A; these are all symbols that
Hawthorne uses. The average reader may take it for granted, but each symbol within this
novel has a purpose. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses all of these symbols to build his story, to
make it come to life. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is created around the
different symbols within the novel. The most obvious symbol of the novel is the one from
which the book takes its title, the scarlet letter A. The scarlet letter must be separated
from the literary form, in order to find full understanding of the letter. The literary
symbol for he scarlet letter is a “concrete and an untranslatable presentation of an idea”
(Weiss 19). The scarlet letter cannot find its way into the real life, except through the
“meditation of the symbol” (Weiss 20). The scarlet letter is therefore a punishment by the
Puritan society’s desire to bring for the truth, but it was brought to life by Hester.

Hawthorne also lets the scarlet letter take on many other forms. The scarlet letter not only
stands for adulteress, but for angel and able. It is also a reminder to both Hester Prynne
and Arthur Dimmesdale of the sins that they have brought upon themselves. The Puritan
community is another form that the scarlet letter A symbolizes. The scarlet letter A is a
reminder for Hester, Dimmesdale, and the Puritan community of their sins. For Hester,
the scarlet letter represents her sin of adultery. She becomes the scarlet letter, taking the
symbol upon herself. “She gives up her individuality, she becomes the general symbol at
which the preacher and moralist might point, and which they might vivify and embody
their images of woman’s frailty and sinful passion” (Hawthorne 74). Dimmesdale also
becomes letter, just as Hester took it upon herself, he does too. He lets the letter take him
over by tattooing it upon his chest. He also lets the scarlet letter engulf him, making him
weak and vulnerable. His weakness is shown when Hester and he meet in the forest, for
he immediately agrees to run away and leave his problems behind. For the Puritans the
scarlet letter “provokes hostile feelings in the citizens of Boston” (“Scarlet Letter” 8).

Weiss explains the symbolism of the scarlet letter in the following paragraph: “The
world’s great symbols, as they emerge in religious icons – symbols of rebirth,
rejuvenation, resurrection – are seen as memorials to the anxieties that attend our
biological rhythms. The anxiety is mastered by being displayed to a universal religious,
scientific, philosophical, or… a meaningful aesthetic experience. The anxiety is mastered
by dint of repetitions, by the substitution of controlled rituals, and by condensation into
unified and benign experience” (Weiss 21). This shows that the scarlet letter fulfills for
the Puritans a social and religious function; the letter creates a story for them to tell and
to show the sins that Hester has committed. Another symbol the scarlet letter A takes on
is adultery, able, and angel. The scarlet letter stands for adultery because of the crime
that Hester committed. Hester committed the crime with Dimmesdale and brought forth a
child from it. Hester now has to wear the symbol A upon her chest to represent the crime
of adultery. The scarlet letter stands for able, because after Hester was committed of the
crime she helped the citizens in the community. “Sorrow awakens her sympathies, so that
she becomes a nurse. In fact, the best deeds of Hester’s life come about through her fall
from grace. Her charity to the poor, her comfort to the broken-hearted, her unquestioned
presence in times of trouble are the direct result of her search for repentance” (“Scarlet
Letter” 3). The scarlet letter A also symbolizes angel, because the letter appeared in the
sky after the Governor died. The Puritan community took this as a sign from God that the
Governor passed on to heaven and became an angel. The gravestone for both
Dimmesdale and Hester is seen “only by one ever glowing point of light gloomier than
the shadow” and the light reveals the letter A symbolizing angle. This symbolizes angel,
because both Hester and Dimmesdale were united after death and their sins were
forgiven (Waggoner 239 -240). One main symbol in the novel is the struggle between
light and darkness, which represents the fight between good and evil. The rose bush is an
example of a symbol for the struggle between light and darkness. The Scarlet Letter was
suppose to have a happy conclusion and that is what the rose bush by the prison was
suppose to symbolize in the first chapter. Instead, the rose just added light to
Hawthorne’s dark tale. The forest scene in the novel is another example of the fight
between darkness and light. The forest scenes showed the hardships that Hester had to
face every day, such as when she reaches into the light and it moves away from her hand:
“Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid
of something on your bosom. Now see! There it is, playing a good way off. Stand you
here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear no
thing on my bosom yet!” (Hawthorne 192). This scene suggests that she will never be
welcome in the light and that she must stay in the forest where it is dark. Lightness also
takes on another form for Hester, she is both dark and light. The light will not accept her,
but in her own way she is light, explained in this passage: “Hester tries to subdue her
spirit and sensuality, hiding it all beneath a sad cap. But she can’t do it. One breath of
fresh air, one ray of sunlight, one moment alone with her lover in the forest, and she is
herself again, reaching passionately for a life of freedom and fulfillment” (“Scarlet
Letter” 3). This shows how she has turned towards darkness. She has become “able”,
giving her help to those in the Puritan community; yet, with one moment alone with
Dimmesdale and she lost everything that she strived for. This shows another struggle
between light and darkness. Another symbol that leads to the struggle between light and
darkness is the way Hester and Dimmesdale hide their love for each other. Hawthorne
uses Hester and Dimmesdale to symbolize the “conflict between the desire to confess and
the necessity of self-concealment” (Crews). The forest scenes and the scaffold scenes are
examples of the struggle for Hester and Dimmesdale. When the two meet in the forest
and the scaffold, it proves that they can never show their love to each other in public.

Their sin has become so great that is has created a different world for them, forcing them
to meet in the darkness of the shadows. The way Hester and Dimmesdale plan their
escape is another example of the struggle between light and darkness. They meet in the
darkness of the forest shows that their escape is bound to fail. There is a storm over them
and shadows upon them, showing that they cannot get away from their sins. This is
proved when Dimmesdale turn himself in at the scaffold, because no matter how hard he
tries he can not get away for his sins. Hester Prynne is another symbol within the novel,
she symbolizes the heroine of the novel. Hester stands up for herself and for what she
believes. She is “a woman fighting for her natural rights and freedoms.” Compared to the
“tight-mouthed Puritans” she is a true woman. She knows that she has committed a crime
and has accepted it and learned to live with it. Hester has even tried to relieve herself of
the sin by doing good deeds for the Puritan society, although they have treated her with
such disrespect, knowing that they will never truly accept her. A symbol is shown in
Hester’s dress on the day she stand for the first time on the pillory: “The young woman –
the mother on the child – stood fully revealed before the crowd, with a burning blush,
and yet a haughty smiles, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her
towns people and neighbors. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with
an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A. It
was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that
it has all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and
which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what
was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony” (Hawthorne 57). The symbol
that this creates is one that she creates for herself, it expresses her desire and
individuality. Dimmesdale symbolizes the coward in the story as well as the hypocrite.

Dimmesdale continues to try to make peace with God, although he never will.

Dimmesdale cannot make peace with God for one simple fact, he does not know how to
do so. He not only does not know how to, he does not care if he lives or dies, and by the
end of the novel he is so weak he can barely lift himself. The sin has engulfed him into a
void that he does not know how to leave. When he meets Hester in the forest, he sees it
as a way out. He is so weak and willing to try anything that he accepts Hester’s plan
without much hesitation. Yet, being the hypocrite that he is, he turns around and
confesses everything at the scaffold. Pearl is another main symbol that the novel is built
around. Pearl symbolizes Hawthorne’s first child, Una. Pearl symbolizes Una because she
was actually modeled after her. Pearl also represents the idea that the full acceptance of
responsibility for sin is better then denying it. Accepting the consequences fully is also
better that ignoring this responsibility altogether or even accepting it halfway. Hester
accepted the responsibility for her sin, which was Pearl. In fact, Pearl was not only
Hester’s responsibility, but her gift. Pearl was indeed Hester’s “pearl”. Pearl was a
treasure that Hester paid for greatly, and took the consequences. Hester paid by giving
her life up for Pearl, she lost everything she ever had or could have gained in the Puritan
society. The Puritans cast Hester away, making her an outsider for the community. More
importantly, Pearl symbolizes the scarlet letter A and the fate of Hester. Pearl looks very
much like the scarlet letter. When Pearl is first introduced she is dressed in crimson and
gold, just like the A that Hester wears upon her chest. Pearl continually reminds Hester of
her sin. Pearl reminds Hester so much of her sin, because of the fact that she dresses her
like the letter. Hester also is reminded of her sin by Pearl because of her childlike wonder
of the letter; Pearl is always asking why her mother wears the letter upon her chest, and
why she cannot wear one. Not only does Peal represent the scarlet letter, but she also
symbolizes fate. In the forest scene, she tells her mother to go and pick up her own letter,
pointing to it. Fate also points it’s finger at the letter saying that she must live with the sin
that she has committed. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne was written around
the symbols in the novel itself. Each symbol had an effect within the novel that should
not be taken for granted. The symbols in the novel are not just “signs or tokens of
something.” They are in fact the “meaning from the work of which they are part.”
Hawthorne uses double meanings for every symbol within the novel, leaving the final
definition of the symbols entirely up to the reader (“The Scarlet Letter” 8)
” The House Of The Seven Gables”
The story of The House Of The Seven Gables streches over two centuries. It’s the classic scenario of two
rival families, in this case the Pyncheons ( weathly aristocratic puritans) and the Maules
( humbler paupers). The story of these two families begins with Matthew Maule, who
owned a certain amount of land and built himself a hut to live in, in this new puritan
settlement. Maule was a hard working but obscure man, who was stubborn and protected
what was his. His rival arrived at the settlement about 30 to 40 years after Maule had
been there. Colonel Pyncheon, an ambicious and determined man, had a high position in
the town. It was said that Colonel Pyncheon was very much for the execution of those
who practiced witchcraft, and it was also said that he very strongly sought the
condemnation of Matthew Maule for being a wizard. Pyncheon did manage to have
Maule executed but not before Maule placed a curse on Pyncheon and his decendants.
These were Maules exact words :
” God, God will give him blood to drink !”
Many of the characters in the book were influenced by actual people in and
during Nathanial’s life. For example : Colonel Pyncheon was based on The Reverend
Wentworth Upham, a Minister and mayor of Salem. He wrote the books : Lecture’s on
Withcraft and History of Witchcraft and Salem Village. The Maule name was derived
from Thomas Maule, a Quaker merchant living in Salem at the time of the trials. In
Nathanials American Notebooks he records that his great great grandfather Judge
Hathorne, the judge in the witch trials, injured a neighbor named English once, who
never forgave him. Yet English’s daughter married Hathorne’s son. In the same way, the
decendants of the Pyncheons and the Maules finally unite in marraige at the end of the
story. The Pyncheon and the Maule who get married at the end are Phoebe and Holgrave.
Phoebe is a smiling, public young woman. Holgrave is a kind artist ( daguerreotypist )
and is also the last desendant of Thomas Maule ( this is revealed at the end of the story).It
is believed that his cousin, Susannah Ingersoll, was who he had in mind when creating
the character of Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon. There is also evidence that Hawthorne had
himself in mind when creating the character of Holgrave, and of his wife,Sophia Peabody
Hawthorne, when creating Phoebe.***( Include other examples of the evidence that
suggests this)***
Ever since Hawthorne decided to become a writer he was determined to be a
success. He wrote for many years but none of his publications drew the attention
Hawthorne wanted. At the time he wrote the House of the Seven Gables, he had just
finished with The Scarlett Letter which had won him much fame. At this time
Hawthorne was preoocupied with his worth in America’s literary marketplace. He
promised his publishers and friends that his next book would have a “prosperous close”,
which meant something along the lines of a happy ending which did not come naturally
to Hawthorne. He found himself in a tight spot when trying to end the book, which took
him several months to write. I believe it did the story more harm than good, because
while reading the final chapter, ” The Departure”, it felt as though the seriousness and
many of the true significances of parts of the story weren’t there anymore. As though he
just ended the story that way to please the audience ( with a happy ending, everyone
becomes rich and moves onto a country house, Holgrave and Phoebe get married,and the
bad guy Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon just dies.).
Hawthorne was a very insightful, yet confusing man. Some would even say hypocritical
because he would criticize or claim something and in the end, praise what he critisized
and claim the opposite of what he originally said. I, on the other hand wouldn’t say he
was a hypocrite, rather he was mysterious, not letting anyone know his true intentions but
just letting them interpret things their own way. He incorporated this into much of his
writing, also. In The House Of The Seven Gables Hawthorne gives us alot of details and
symbols but he never really tells us what they mean, leaving them to our own
interpretations.
HTML1DocumentEncodingutf-8″Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a
story that is thick with allegory. “Young Goodman Brown” is a moral story which is told
through the perversion of a religious leader. In “Young Goodman Brown”, Goodman
Brown is a Puritan minister who lets his excessive pride in himself interfere with his
relations with the community after he meets with the devil, and causes him to live the life
of an exile in his own community. “Young Goodman Brown” begins when Faith, Brown’s
wife, asks him not to go on an “errand”. Goodman Brown says to his “love and (my) Faith”
that “this one night I must tarry away from thee.” When he says his “love” and his “Faith”,
he is talking to his wife, but he is also talking to his “faith” to God. He is venturing into the
woods to meet with the Devil, and by doing so, he leaves his unquestionable faith in God
with his wife. He resolves that he will “cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.” This is
an example of the excessive pride because he feels that he can sin and meet with the
Devil because of this promise that he made to himself. There is a tremendous irony to this
promise because when Goodman Brown comes back at dawn; he can no longer look at
his wife with the same faith he had before. When Goodman Brown finally meets with the
Devil, he declares that the reason he was late was because “Faith kept me back awhile.”
This statement has a double meaning because his wife physically prevented him from
being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith to God psychologically delayed
his meeting with the devil. The Devil had with him a staff that “bore the likeness of a great
black snake”. The staff which looked like a snake is a reference to the snake in the story
of Adam and Eve. The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the
Tree of Knowledge. The Adam and Eve story is similar to Goodman Brown in that they are
both seeking unfathomable amounts of knowledge. Once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree
of Knowledge they were expelled from their paradise. The Devil’s staff eventually leads
Goodman Brown to the Devil’s ceremony which destroys Goodman Brown’s faith in his
fellow man, therefore expelling him from his utopia. Goodman Brown almost immediately
declares that he kept his meeting with the Devil and no longer wishes to continue on his
errand with the Devil. He says that he comes from a “race of honest men and good
Christians” and that his father had never gone on this errand and nor will he. The Devil is
quick to point out however that he was with his father and grandfather when they were
flogging a woman or burning an Indian village, respectively. These acts are ironic in that
they were bad deeds done in the name of good, and it shows that he does not come from
“good Christians.” When Goodman Brown’s first excuse not to carry on with the errand
proves to be unconvincing, he says he can’t go because of his wife, “Faith”. And because
of her, he can not carry out the errand any further. At this point the Devil agrees with him
and tells him to turn back to prevent that “Faith should come to any harm” like the old
woman in front of them on the path. Ironically, Goodman Brown’s faith is harmed because
the woman on the path is the woman who “taught him his catechism in youth, and was
still his moral and spiritual adviser.” The Devil and the woman talk and afterward, Brown
continues to walk on with the Devil in the disbelief of what he had just witnessed.

Ironically, he blames the woman for consorting with the Devil but his own pride stops him
from realizing that his faults are the same as the woman’s. Brown again decides that he
will no longer to continue on his errand and rationalizes that just because his teacher was
not going to heaven, why should he “quit my dear Faith, and go after her”. At this, the
Devil tosses Goodman Brown his staff (which will lead him out of his Eden) and leaves
him. Goodman Brown begins to think to himself about his situation and his pride in
himself begins to build. He “applauds himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a
conscience he should meet his minister…And what calm sleep would be his…in the arms
of Faith!” This is ironic because at the end of the story, he can not even look Faith in the
eye, let alone sleep in her arms. As Goodman Brown is feeling good about his strength in
resisting the Devil, he hears the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin. He overhears
their conversation and hears them discuss a “goodly young woman to be taken in to
communion” that evening at that night’s meeting and fears that it may be his Faith. When
Goodman Brown hears this he becomes weak and falls to the ground. He “begins to doubt
whether there really was a Heaven above him” and this is a key point when Goodman
Brown’s faith begins to wain. Goodman Brown in panic declares that “With Heaven above,
and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” Again, Brown makes a promise to
keep his faith unto God. Then “a black mass of cloud” goes in between Brown and the sky
as if to block his prayer from heaven. Brown then hears what he believed to be voices that
he has before in the community. Once Goodman Brown begins to doubt whether this is
really what he had heard or not, the sound comes to him again and this time it is followed
by “one voice, of a young woman”. Goodman believes this is Faith and he yells out her
name only to be mimicked by the echoes of the forest, as if his calls to Faith were falling
on deaf ears. A pink ribbon flies through the air and Goodman grabs it. At this moment, he
has lost all faith in the world and declares that there is “no good on earth.” Young
Goodman Brown in this scene is easily manipulated simply by the power of suggestion.

The suggestion that the woman in question is his Faith, and because of this, he easily
loses his faith. Goodman Brown then loses all of his inhibitions and begins to laugh
insanely. He takes hold of the staff which causes him to seem to “fly along the
forest-path”. This image alludes to that of Adam and Eve being led out of the Garden of
Eden as is Goodman Brown being led out of his utopia by the Devil’s snakelike staff.

Hawthorne at this point remarks about “the instinct that guides mortal man to evil”. This is
a direct statement from the author that he believes that man’s natural inclination is to lean
to evil than good. Goodman Brown had at this point lost his faith in God, therefore there
was nothing restraining his instincts from moving towards evil because he had been lead
out from his utopian image of society. At this point, Goodman Brown goes mad and
challenges evil. He feels that he will be the downfall of evil and that he is strong enough to
overcome it all. This is another demonstration of Brown’s excessive pride and arrogance.

He believes that he is better than everyone else in that he alone can destroy evil. Brown
then comes upon the ceremony which is setup like a perverted Puritan temple. The altar
was a rock in the middle of the congregation and there were four trees surrounding the
congregation with their tops ablaze, like candles. A red light rose and fell over the
congregation which cast a veil of evil over the congregation over the devil worshippers.

Brown starts to take notice of the faces that he sees in the service and he recognizes them
all, but he then realizes that he does not see Faith and “hope came into his heart”. This is
the first time that the word “hope” ever comes into the story and it is because this is the
true turning point for Goodman Brown. If Faith was not there, as he had hoped, he would
not have to live alone in his community of heathens, which he does not realize that he is
already apart of. Another way that the hope could be looked at is that it is all one of “the
Christian triptych”. (Capps 25) The third part of the triptych which is never mentioned
throughout the story is charity. If Brown had had “charity” it would have been the
“antidote that would have allowed him to survive without despair the informed state in
which he returned to Salem.” (Camps 25) The ceremony then begins with a a cry to “Bring
forth the converts!” Surprisingly Goodman Brown steps forward. “He had no power to
retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought…”. Goodman Brown at this point seems to
be in a trance and he loses control of his body as he is unconsciously entering this
service of converts to the devil. The leader of the service than addresses the crowd of
converts in a disturbing manner. He informs them that all the members of the
congregation are the righteous, honest, and incorruptible of the community. The sermon
leader then informs the crowd of their leader’s evil deeds such as attempted murder of the
spouse and wife, adultery, and obvious blasphemy. After his sermon, the leader informs
them to look upon each other and Goodman Brown finds himself face to face with Faith.

The leader begins up again declaring that “Evil is the nature of mankind” and he
welcomes the converts to “communion of your race”. (The “communion of your race”
statement reflects to the irony of Brown’s earlier statement that he comes from “a race of
honest men and good Christians.”) The leader than dips his hand in the rock to draw a
liquid from it and “to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads”. Brown than snaps out
from his trance and yells “Faith! Faith! Look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one!” At
this, the ceremony ends and Brown finds himself alone. He does not know whether Faith,
his wife, had kept her faith, but he finds himself alone which leads him to believe that he is
also alone in his faith. Throughout the story, Brown lacks emotion as a normal person
would have had. The closest Brown comes to showing an emotion is when “a hanging
twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew.” The dew on
his cheek represents a tear that Brown is unable to produce because of his lack of
emotion. Hawthorne shows that Brown has “no compassion for the weaknesses he sees
in others, no remorse for his own sin, and no sorrow for his loss of faith.” (Easterly 339)
His lack of remorse and compassion “condemns him to an anguished life that is spiritually
and emotionally dissociated.” (Easterly 341) This scene is an example of how Goodman
Brown chose to follow his head rather than his heart. Had Brown followed his heart, he
may have still lived a good life. If he followed with his heart, he would have been able to
sympathize with the community’s weaknesses, but instead, he listened to his head and
excommunicated himself from the community because he only thought of them as
heathens. “Young Goodman Brown” ends with Brown returning to Salem at early dawn
and looking around like a “bewildered man.” He cannot believe that he is in the same
place that he just the night before; because to him, Salem was no longer home. He felt like
an outsider in a world of Devil worshippers and because his “basic means of order, his
religious system, is absent, the society he was familiar with becomes nightmarish.” (Shear
545) He comes back to the town “projecting his guilt onto those around him.” (Tritt 114)
Brown expresses his discomfort with his new surroundings and his excessive pride when
he takes a child away from a blessing given by Goody Cloyse, his former Catechism
teacher, as if he were taking the child “from the grasp of the fiend himself.” His anger
towards the community is exemplified when he sees Faith who is overwhelmed with
excitement to see him and he looks “sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on
without a greeting.” Brown cannot even stand to look at his wife with whom he was at the
convert service with. He feels that even though he was at the Devil’s service, he is still
better than everyone else because of his excessive pride. Brown feels he can push his
own faults on to others and look down at them rather than look at himself and resolve his
own faults with himself. Goodman Brown was devastated by the discovery that the
potential for evil resides in everybody. The rest of his life is destroyed because of his
inability to face this truth and live with it. The story, which may have been a dream, and
not a real life event, planted the seed of doubt in Brown’s mind which consequently cut
him off from his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. His life ends alone and
miserable because he was never able to look at himself and realize that what he believed
were everyone else’s faults were his as well. His excessive pride in himself led to his
isolation from the community. Brown was buried with “no hopeful verse upon his
tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom