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【English Abstract】 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a classical novel in American literature in the 19th century. Since the first Chinese translation of The Scarlet Letter appeared in the 1950’s scholars and readers in this country have shown an ever-increasing interest in his works. Its immortal enchantment lies in not only its condemnation of the negative impact of Puritan society on people’s spirit, but also its affirmation of goodness. The novel aims at criticizing severely Puritanical asceticism, suggesting Hawthorne’s further thinking over the “original sin” “good and evil” “soul salvation” “total depravity” by analyzing the four main characters in the novel. The novel concerns the consequence caused by the sin and people’s attitude towards sin rather than the sin itself. He believes man can do good deeds to get rid of evil in his heart.
【Key Words】 Puritanism; Human nature; Prynne; Dimmesdale; Roger; Pearl; the scarlet letter

【中文摘要】 <<红字>>是十九世纪美国作家霍桑的成名作.自从本世纪五十年代被译介到我国以来,一直倍受读者的喜爱.其不朽的魅力在于它不仅无情的鞭挞了清教法规对人性的践踏,更重要的是作者对人性的善的肯定.本文旨在通过小说中四位主要人物的分析, 阐明作品所表现的深刻思想内涵:通过与邪恶的搏斗,人可以获得道德上的完善,从而批判了清教主义所倡导的“原罪”“善恶”“拯救灵魂”“彻底堕落”的说法:小说作者主要关心的是原罪导致的后果及人们对待原罪的态度,而不是罪孽本身,他认为由于爱而犯下罪过可以得到忏悔拯救。
【关键字】 清教法规;人性;白兰;丁梅斯代尔;齐灵沃斯;珍珠;红字A

The Scarlet Letter is a famous American novel whose author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is considered the leading American native fictionist of the 19th century. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusette, of a prominent Puritan family, on July4, 1804. “In 1850 he brought out his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter, the story of a triangular love affair in colonial America. In this novel Hawthorne condemned the Puritan philosophy of life”[1]P49 “His stories display a psychological insight into moral isolation and human emotion. He distrusted the claim of objective reason to be able to arrive at humanly relevant truth” [2]P53
His short stories and novel includes: The Minister’s Black Veil, Twice Told Tales, Mosses from an Old Manse, The House of The Seven Gables, The Marble Faun, among which The Scarlet Letter is the most famous. The novel is short but very moving. Prynne, a young and beautiful woman, came to New England two years before his husband, an old, ugly man who can not give Prynne love. Prynne, then falls in love with Dimmesdale, a young handsome clergyman and then has a baby, Pearl, because she can not get any news from her husband, thinking that he has died. When her “adultery” is discovered, she is punished to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest all her life. Her husband, Roger, tries his best to torment Dismmesdale. And Dimmesdale, suffering from both physical and spirit torment, announces his “sin” at last, he dies an honest man. Roger, withers at last, Prynne, restructures her life and wins people’s respect, Pearl, leaves for Europe, marries a noble family, leading a happy life.
Hawthorne’s thought was full of contradictions. In his days, American capitalism was developing rapidly, and the social structure was changeable. He couldn’t understand this change, and tried to explain it by discovering the “hidden evil” in everyone’s heart because of the influence of Puritanism. He used symbolism and imagination, which made his works full of mystical color.
In this research paper, I analsize the main characters of the novel aiming at discussing the novel is a skeptic to the Puritan Thought.

2.Puritanism in American
    “Puritanism was entirely English in its origin, yet the movement achieved its greatest influence in America. The 17th century colonies in New England represent the fullest development of the movement.”[3]P22 Puritanism is the practices and beliefs of the Puritans. The Puritans were originally members of a division of the Protestant Church, who came into existence in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. The first Puritans to arrive in America were Separatists. A new group of Separatists fled England in 1607---1609, to the north of Plymouth, in the area around Boston, other Puritans began arriving in 1628---1630. They came over under the auspices of the Massachusetts Bay Company, a corporation with rights to the area of land lying between the Charles and the Merrimack rivers.
They came to America out of various reasons, but it should be remembered that they were a group of serious, religious people, advocating highly religious and moral principles. They believe that the church should be restored to complete “purity”, they accepted the doctrine of predestination, original sin and total depravity, and limited atonement through a special infusion of grace from God. Puritans’ lives were extremely disciplined and hard. As a culture heritage, Puritanism did have a profound influence on the early American mind. American Puritanism also had a enduring influence on American literature. It had become, to some extent, so much a state of mind, so much a part of the national cultural atmosphere, rather than a set of tenets.
“Puritans includes people from the humblest to the loftiest ranks of English society, educated and uneducated, poor and rich” [4]P91“The Puritans were indebted to John Calvin and the example of the Calvinist tradition. Another source of Puritanism was the Bible, considered the sole authority in matters of faith” It has the following thoughts: “The Puritans demand greater purity and stricter obedience to the will of God, Englishmen in the 16th called such person: “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.” [5]P21 “Puritan opposition to pleasure and the arts has sometimes been exaggerated.” [6]P91

3.The analysis of characters
3.1 Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne was a woman who committed adultery, which is representation of evil of human nature in Puritans’eye, and cannot be accepted by the puritans and the society at that time and. Hester betrayed her husband and went against the principle of honesty according to Puritanism, so she must accept the severe penalty in the puritan society, wearing a scarlet letter “A” on her breast all her life which means “adultery”. “At the least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.” “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die.” [7]P43 The  women’s vicious curse was the supplement of the puritanical code of law. To the puritans, the civilized life was to throw the human nature into the prison. Here, we can see the writer’s negation to the Gail-the symbol of the Puritanism. But “And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison.” [8]P45 “The door of the jail being flung open from within, there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle, with a sword by his side and his stuff of office in his hand” [9]P44
In the whole story, Hester generally kept silent, accepted the insult from adults to children in the puritan society. In fact, she showed extreme strength and courage to resist the bias of the Puritanism by her good deeds. She was always the first one to help people in trouble; gradually she won people’s respect by her benevolence. She spent most of her time on embroidery and Pear, her fancy work was elegant and incomparable, which made people admire her ability. She didn’t only struggle for the right of her own but also for a new world where both men and women could possess the equal right to love. She was an Amazon against the Puritanism. Several times when they met in the forest, she encouraged Dimmesdale to escape together with her. “Hester never thought of meeting him in any narrower privacy than beneath the open sky.” [10]P154 “She took off the formal cap that confined her hair;” “Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of the beauty, came back from what men call the irrevocable past.”[11]P171 In Hawthorme’s and Poe’s novels, women’s black long hair stands for romance and desire, while evil in Puritan society(在霍桑,爱伦·坡等许多作家的小说中,女人的长黑发象征浪漫和情欲,这在清教徒眼中就是罪恶) [12]P66 Her action itself is an affirm to the feudal regime and oppress. Here, we can see Prynne never give up her pursue for love and freedom.
At the end of the story, to the reader’s surprise, Prynne had returned to New England. “People brought sorrows and perplexities, and besought her counsel, as one who had herself gone through a mighty trouble. Earlier in life, Prynne had vainly imaged that she herself might be the destined prophetess” [13]P221 this is the bitterest satire to the Puritanism and its doctrine of total depravity.

3.2 Dimmesdale and Roger
“Dimmesdale was a man torn between human nature and the religious rules that formed civilization at that time.” [14]P27The puritans saw themselves as restoring the Christian tradition to its original purity by new faith but to restore an old one. They hoped to inspire whole communities with zeal for Christian living, mainly through powerful preaching and bible study. He represents many of their best virtues. He was conscientious, learned, and eager to serve. He also represents some of their common vices. He was hypocritical humorless, and a bit vain.
“Unlike Hester and Roger who represented two poplars of passion and puritan doctrine, Dimmesdale struggled between the two extremes. The rigorous doctrine of puritan society got him stuck in his dilemma. Neither could he deny his love to Hester nor could he make a public confession about his sin because he was afraid of the consequence. This dilemma gnawed his heart till his final confession and death.” [15]P43
As a puritan representative, he suffered more from the guilt of his hypocrisy than from the guilt of his passion. He was a clergyman, meanwhile he was a man full of compassion and human nature, he loved Prynne very much, and he committed adultery which betrayed the puritanical code of law. Four decisions were thus forced upon him; he must assert his position in relation to man, God, his original sin and better self. In each case, he only added new falsity to his torment and suffering. “He was struggling on the edge of the spirit and flesh coming breakdown, and he was beat and lashed by the so-called articles of religion “the gory whip” at every moment. It must be considered that he continued to be engaged in the pure mission of a priest with the criminal body should be a great affront to god and a deception to god-people. Eventually, he told the secret in mind with divine courage, he obtains tranquil and the newborn of spirit.” [16]P48 this restraint from religion in human nature exposes the hypocrisy of Puritanism and its doctrine of predestination.
.   Roger was someone whose emotional famine ended in a dark feast of avenge. This made him a figure of black magic in Hawthorne’s sense, that was, someone who had willingly committed his soul to the devil’s care, and who became learned in the arts of evil-doing. He was the most deplorable figure, “at first, he was a victim; at last, he entirely became a ruthless devil. The basic factor led to the result is affected by moral conception, and the main criterion is Puritanism at that time.” [17]P92 His fate was a satire to the “good and evil” “soul salvation” in the Puritanical code of law.
Roger was the full embodiment and victim of the rigorous code of puritan society which negates human passion. He represented moral evil and destroying power. When his evil work was done he positively withered up, shriveled away like an uprooted weed that lay wilting in the sun. Some people may think that he was the victim and he revenged for his dignity. But from the cruel means he revenged on Prynne and Dimmesdale he committed an unforgivable sin. When Dimondale, his tormented subject, ascended the scaffold to confess his sin triumphantly, he was completely defeated just as the puritan hierarchy was defeated.
Prynne and Dimmesdale were sinners at first, they committed the ‘original sin’ according to the Puritanical code of law, and however, they did good deeds to others and got rid of evil in their heart. On the contrary, Roger was not forgivable he saw revenge his sole purpose of life.

3.3 The Role of Pearl
“Pearl was a character who has not yet chosen good or evil .She was in a natural pre-moral state. In this crucial sense she was an unformed person and a reader cannot penetrate much of he personality. Her innocence is tainted with a natural inclination to selfishness, perhaps strengthened by her sadly solitary life. Hawthorne tried to show that Pear was like a rippling stream, mirroring life around her without really understudy or judging it for herself.” [18]P63 Pearl was in fact “the scarlet letter “in another form, it endowed with life .She was a living symbol of adultery.” [19]P111She was viewed almost as a ghost in the Puritans’ eyes. However  ,in little Pearl’s mind ,the scarlet letter is the first thing she got used to .It was the token that her loving –tender-care mother ware quite opposite to the puritan’s outlook ,she didn’t consider the scarlet letter on her mother’s breast as a sign of shame ,but an undispatchable part of her mother. Her idea about “A” was a rebellion against the Puritan society which she found no common with.
Pearl didn’t go with the society which she lives in. On some other times, like a brave warrior in the battle, she fights forcefully against the puritan .She is not a coward anyway. It is the social isolation and discrimination that shape her character in life .Fortunately, nature offers her warmth to Pearl, from the beginning to the end, the sunshine is always with her. “She stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendors, and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion .The light lingered about the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate.” [20]P155
    The impressive friendship of the nature makes her feel that she is one of the members in nature like a wild animal. In the forest, it is understandable that a pigeon-----the symbol of peace, utters a sound to greet the girl. What is more fascinating is that the wolf -----the wildest animal in that forest, “has surly lapsed his tale into the improvable, came up and smelt of Pearl’s robe and offered his savage head to be patted by her hand.” [21]P173
    Since her release from the dark prison, she was separated naturally from other children by the society .Sometime Pearl only watches the children play under the puritanical nature in great distance .She will never take part in their games, nor will they invite her to. However, “she had not the disease of sadness, which almost all children, in these days, inherit, with the scrofula, from the troubles of their ancestors.” [22]P156 This is more than a satire to the Puritanism, it is seemingly paradoxical that the Puritan considers Pearl as a symbol of adultery, where as the author regards her as an angel .Besides, “Pearl, this character hints Hawthorne’s skeptic feeling to Puritanism, she breached of the requirements in Puritanism’s homespun wearing and worn the bright and glittering “Bizarre dress” by Prynne.” [23]P18
        At the end of the novel, Pearl left England to Europe, leading a happy life, which announced an affirmation from the author that Pearl would be unable to obtain happiness in the strict and severe Puritanism society.

The four characters are a significant arrangement. They display a picture of all desires and sufferings. good and evil ,and therefore, they make the book an allegory of mankind .To conclude the story, Hawthorne puts into a sentence one most important moral: “Be true !Be true !Be true !Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some  trait where by the worst may be inferred! ” [24]P236  When people are not true to the world and to themselves, how is it possible for them to make any judgment?  The author seems to have examined the basis of the whole system of Puritan civilization and he stresses that all human action should be open to interpretation, and people can not and should not impose the truth with absolute certainty. The ideal society as Hawthorne images should be built not on false living, but on a new moral order, in which broadmindedness, compassion, and individualism will be highly valued. And from these figures, we began to comprehend the Puritan thoughts and values. We have realized what the dark side of Puritan is: harshness, persecutions and absolute certainty.


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