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Analytical Essay on The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism around Hester Prynne

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Mistress Hibbins is based on a historical figure, Ann Hibbins. Ann Hibbins was the sister-in-law of Governor Belligham and she was also executed in 1659 after being accused and found guilty of witchcraft. Her function in the novel is to be the exact opposite of the character of Hester. She symbolizes supernatural knowledge and evil powers. “Wilt thou go with us tonight? There will be merry company in the forest; and I well-nigh promised the Black Man that comely Hester Prynne should make one” (Hawthorne 67). Mistress Hibbins sets out to turn Hester Prynne into the Black Man. The Black Man is also known as the devil to the Puritan society. Governor Bellingham is Massachusetts Bay Colony’s governor. He is based on a historical figure, Richard Bellingham. Governor Bellingham symbolizes civil authority and he represents how someone acts when they have access to a great deal of power. Governor Bellingham thought about separating Pearl and Hester since Hester has committed sin. Governor Bellingham doesn’t want Pearl to be around a person that can influence her negatively. “‘It is because of the stain which that letter indicates, that we would transfer thy child to other hands’” (Hawthorne 61). This quote demonstrates that Governor Bellingham is strict and wants children to grow up in an environment that is more suitable and more appropriate for them. Mr. Wilson is based on an English-born minister who, in 1630, arrived in Boston. He was tremendously brilliant and well-educated. Mr. Wilson symbolizes religious authority alongside Governor Bellingham.

He conflict between Puritan law and the laws of nature or human law is that they are created and based off of two completely distinct objectives. Puritan laws are based on religion. The Bible and God’s Commandments have been incorporated into the making of the Puritan laws. The laws of nature are not based on anything. These laws are corrupt and are not limited. The laws of nature of human law are based on the reasoning that if you gain pleasure from doing something, then continue doing whatever that pleases you. Issues are more open and there are explanations for challenging circumstances. However, the laws of nature has the ability to contravene additional laws. To demonstrate, Hester and Dimmesdale’s relationship depicts conflict between Puritan law and the laws of nature. Hester and Dimmesdale were in a relationship that developed over time and resulted in Hester conceiving a baby girl. This situation would be common in the laws of nature. But according to Puritan laws, since Hester doesn’t have a husband, conceiving a child was a sin. “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 consequence thereof” (Hawthorne 19). Governor Bellingham tells Dimmesdale that, according to Puritan law, Hester’s misdemeanor is his responsibility too.

Sin is one of the main symbols in the novel. Throughout the novel, some characters commit sin and these characters are given punishments. Hester Prynne and Artur Dimmesdale have both committed sin but they each dealt with their sin differently. Hester believes she violates the laws of nature when she sins. Since Hester believes that she is in the wrong, she fully accepts her punishment. Even though she had a punishment, she did not let it bring her down. She was optimistic and took chances in order to become a better person. “Individuals in private life, meanwhile, had quite forgiven Hester Prynne for her frailty; nay, more, they had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token, not of that one sin…but of her many good deeds since” (Hawthrone 114). Instead of sulking and letting her punishment mortify her life, being good to other people enabled her to once again be accepted by society. People didn’t see the scarlet letter for notoriety anymore, but for the goodness Hester brount to those around her. Unlike Hester’s way of dealing with er sin and punishment, Dimmesdale deals with it negatively. Keeping his life private caused internal conflict, which ultimately led to his death. Both characters dealt with their sins differently and caused their separate futures to contradict themselves. One accepted her sin and ended up improving her life, while the other one kept everything a secret and ended up dead.

Hester experienced embarrassment and was punished because of the sin she committed. Even though she was punished, embarrassed, and shamed publicly, she did not let any of those bring her down. Instead, she used those punishments to redeem and better herself. She accepted that she was wrong and dealt with her punishment the right way. She became a better person and she also forgave herself for committing sin. She dealt with the hate and shame from other people and matured her ethics, character, and morals. Along with the changes in Hester’s personality, the meaning of the scarlet letter also changes. The scarlet letter that used to be seen negatively, was now seen in a positive light. “That many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 113). Hester was able to change the way people saw her after some time. She dealt with a lot of hardships but she continued to be patient during her journey. This patience enabled her to be accepted into society once more after she learned from her mistakes and started doing good.

Hester Prynne was surrounded by many symbols, each symbolizing something different. Hester was forced to wear the scarlet letter, which symbolized that se had committed a sin. “For the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom” (Hawthorne 16). That scarlet letter symbolized adultery, a sin which Hester Prynne had unfortunately committed. As time passed, the scarlet letter started to symbolize her that she was “powerful and peculiar” and it also started to symbolize her “position in respect to society” (Hawthorne 115). Hester had earned the respect of the public and they stopped regarding the scarlet letter as a symbol of sin. The scarlet letter was not the only thing that symbolized her personality, but her apparel and the clothes that she wore symbolized her personality too. “Seven years past, Hester was clad in a garment of coarse gray cloth” (Hawthorne 181). The gray cloth symbolized that “it had the effect of making her fade personally out of sight” (Hawthorne 181). Her apparel represents her standing in their society. Hester Prynne was a seamstress. Her passion in sewing and making apparel was shown in the handiwork of the things she made. “By degrees, not very slowly, her handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion” (Hawthorne 35). The townspeople disregarded the fact that Hester had sinned and bought her products, since they were made with great quality.

I agree with the critics who said that Hester Prynne was the first American heroine. The hardships she had to go through enabled her to better her personality. Looking at the bright side and being optimistic in a negative situation is one attribute of a heroine. Aside from bettering herself, she also calls attention to other women and how men are treating them. “As concerned her own individual existence, she had long ago decided in the negative, and dismissed the point as settled” (Hawthorne 117). Hester knows that women are still being put under pressure, may it be religious pressure or social pressure and takes in the pessimism of the public. Women in her town look up to her and uses her as a model because of the things she does and the strong influence surrounding her. Women in her town look up to her and hope to no longer be society’s pressure. This influence she had on the lives of the public is what makes her the first American heroine.

Pearl’s character may seem unrealistic sometimes. The way she communicates and speaks isn’t the way a girl her age would normally communicate. Pearl makes comments like “he calls us to him, and holds thy hand and mine, as when we stood with him on the scaffold yonder” (Hawthorne 184). These comments are not something a girl her age would make because of the deeper meaning that they wouldn’t understand. Pearl and her mother have a confidential meeting together in the woods. Other kids wouldn’t have to ability to process something as odd as Pearl’s situation the way Pearl can. Besides Pearl’s perspicacious disposition, she also has a way of maturing very quickly. The novel describes Pearl as a “demon offspring” and “as some people, up to that epoch, persisted in considering her-became the richest heiress of her day in the New World” (Hawthorne 216). Although Pearl’s mother was very unsuccessful and Pearl had to grow up with a lot of drawbacks, Pearl was still able to have a high ranking in society. Pearl was a reminder of Hester’s sin, but even if she was a reminder of that, she still managed to vindicate her mother and her father. The author included Pearl’s character in the novel to represent the candor that others wouldn’t see. Pearl ended up being successful even though her background and childhood was quite the opposite.

Hester commits a grave sin. But she overcomes it. She changes for the better and becomes a beacon of hope to other people. Dimmesdale, however, hides his shame and guilt. This weighs him down, causing him to become weaker and weaker and unchanged as Hester is. The forest is a wild, untamed area that is unknown. It is where evil dwells and symbolizes darkness, sin, and wrongs.

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The Namesake

The Ganguli family and the Ratcliff family are quite different from each other. Since both families have different culture backgrounds, they each have their own way of running things. The way they raise their children, the food they eat, the way the way dress, the way they speak, are just some of the differences between the two families. Gogol goes to the Ratcliffs’ house to join them for dinner and notices some of the differences between his family’s life and the Ratcliffs’ life. Gogol notices that his family hasn’t fully transitioned to the American life and that his parents are not going to change their family’s traditions and beliefs. “It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratcliffs are generous, they are the type of people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, as assured, in his case correctly, that their life will appeal to him” (Lahiri 146). Hospitality is very indispensable to the Ganguli family. The Ganguli family always welcomes and makes their guests feel comfortable in their home. While the Gangulis’ welcome their guests and visitors with open arms, the Ratcliffs’ don’t really welcome their guests the same way the Gangulis’ do. These differences show Gogol how different American culture is from Indian culture.

Ashoke had a near-death experience that affected his decisions later in his life. While he was on a train, going to Jamshedpur, the train he was on derailed from the tracks, causing the train cars to collide and smash into each other. The collision of all the train cars caused the deaths of basically everyone on the train. Ashoke was one of the survivors of that terrible accident. While he was on the train, he was reading a book by the Russian author Nikolai Gogol. That same book saved his life. His body was halfway out of the window and he could barely move. The first responders were becoming hopeless about finding survivors and they were about to leave, but Ashoke dropped his book and one of the rescuers noticed, and they were able to save him. That accident and traumatic experience stuck with him for his whole life. Nikolai Gogol was such an important name for him that he named his firstborn Gogol, to remind him of his second chance at life. As Gogol grew older, he started to hate his name because it was so odd. Gogol didn’t realize how significant and important his name was to his father. One day, as Ashoke picked up Gogol from the train station, Ashoke decides to tell Gogol how Gogol got his name. After hearing the traumatic experience his father went through and how much his name meant to his father, Gogol asks Ashoke if Gogol reminds Ashoke of the near-death experience. Ashoke responds to Gogol’s question with, “You remind me of everything that followed’ (Lahiri 124). Gogol always thought that his name was just a stupid name. He had that kind of mindset for a long time and he thought it was so dumb to the point where he legally changed his name. But once he heard the importance and the significance his name was to Ashoke, he realized that his name symbolized the second chance that his father was given.

Ashoke and Ashima had an arranged marriage. This marriage arrangement affected Ashima because she had to leave her whole family back in Calcutta while she moved to a whole different country. Ashima had a hard time adapting to such a big change. She was starting to get used to life in America, but when she had Gogol, Ashima was left at home, alone, having to do all the chores around the house and taking care of Gogol by herself. Ashima was having such a hard time with the change that she told Ashoke, “I don’t wan tot raise Gogol alone in this country. It’s not right and I want to go back” (Lahiri 33). Ashima was having a hard time taking care of Gogol and doing all of the chores around the house by herself. Ashima was familiar with her family being around her and being there when she needed them. Ashima wanted to go back to Calcutta so she could have someone help her with Gogol and all the house chores. Moving across the world to America had such a huge impact on their lives as a married couple and individually as well. Not only were they more than 4000 miles away from their family, they also had to adapt to the customs and traditions of the american people. Being far away from their families made the change so much harder because they could only communicate using letters. They would send updates to their family and they would receive updates on their families. Not only did they receive updates, they also received news about emergencies or if anything terrible was going on back in Calcutta. If they got a letter saying someone had died, they wouldn’t be able to be there and mourn for that person in Calcutta. After Gogol was born, Ashima’s grandmother was supposed to pick the name of the newborn, but Ashima later found out through a letter that her grandmother was very ill. Her grandmother was so ill that her father told her through the letter that,“She is still with us, but to be honest we have already lost her…Prepare yourself, Ashima. Perhaps you may never see her again” (Lahiri 37). As much as Ashima wanted to go back to Calcutta to see her grandmother again, she knew that they couldn’t, since Ashoke’s salary was not enough. Ashima had to accept the fact that she would never see her grandmother again. In terms of Ashoke and Ashima, they did love each other. Maybe not the type of love a couple who weren’t arranged would have, but a caring type of love. Due to the fact that their marriage was arranged, Ashoke and Ashima didn’t show each other an affectionate type of love, but they still cared about each other and made sure that they were both doing okay. Yes, they cared about each other, but they were not in love.

As we move through the story, we see that Gogol has a lot of relationships and interact with a lot of women. Gogol learned many things from the relationships he went into. Some of these relationships caused him to change and made him adjust to Americna culture. The first relationship he had was with a girl named Ruth. As this was the first relationship that he’s ever been in, he was very cautious and didn’t rush things. Ashima and Ashok did not bless their relationship. Gogol opens up to Ruth and talks about his background and his culture a lot. As time passed, Gogol realized that he was not seeing her in his future plans. As Gogol is helping his parents get ready for Christmas, he starts thinking,”He cannot imagine being with her in the house where he is still Gogol” (Lahiri 115). Gogol doesn’t want Ruth to know who he really is and his real identity. His second relationship is with a girl named Maxine. Gogol and Maxine’s relationship becomes very serious in a short amount of time. Gogol falls in love with Maxine’s life, as it was so luxurious. He loved how is was so different from his life with his parents. Unlike with Ruth, Gogol didn’t talk about his background and his culture with Maxine. Gogol would always be busy with Maxine’s parents and would never visit his own parents. The one time they did visit Ashoke and Ashima, Gogol didn’t enjoy it and immediately longed to go back to Maxine’s house. The lush life that Maxine had is what Gogol wanted and because he wanted this so much, he began to forget about his own life and culture. They were together when Ashoke died. When Gogol finds out about his father’s death, he goes back to his mother and stays with her to comfort her. This moment changed Gogol. He ended his relationship with Maxine. Gogol’s third relationship was with his childhood friend, Moushumi. Since they had a lot in common, they immediately clicked. Gogol never expected that he would fall in love with Moushumi. After he spends some time with Moushumi, he starts to reflect on his feelings. “He had not expected to enjoy himself, to be attracted to her in the least” (Lahiri 199). Gogol fell in love with Moushumi. They loved each other so much that they got married after a year of being together.

Ashima Ganguli is a very pivotal and complex character. Her character contributes a lot to the novel. She had so many changes happen and hardships that she had to face and she managed to get through all of them. The first change, the biggest change, was when she migrated from Calcutta to America because she was now married to Ashoke. She was forced to leave her family and everything else behind. One hardship she went through was when Gogol was born. Ashim had to get used to doing all the chores around the house and take care of her newborn 24/7 since Ashoke was rarely even home. Ahima depended on Ashoke for a lot of things because he was the only person who she could turn to. Ashima depended on him for a roof over their heads, money for spending, and clothes. As the story continues, we see Ashima grasp the concept of independence, especially after Ashoke’s death. Ashima’s children, Gogol and Sonia, also moved out, leaving Ashima all alone at her house. Ashima had a hard time dealing with her children moving away from her. As Ashima is writing cards for her children, she begins to think, “Their need to keep their distance from her, is something she will never understand” (Lahiri 166). As time goes by, Ashima realizes that her children grew up and she accepts the fact that they make their own decisions and she is not part of those decisions. Knowing that and accepting these facts, Ashima now just wats both Gogol and Sonia to b happy. Her acceptance of these things show that she has accepted the American culture and she is happy with whatever Gogol an Sonia decide to do with their lives.

Jhumpa Lahiri used unexpected events to change the direction of the story. These unexpected event allowed the plot to thicken and become more interesting for the reader. One unexpected event that Lahiri used to spice up the story was Gogol’s marriage to Moushumi. Ashima was nagging Gogol about his love life and asking him when he was going to get a new girlfriend. Gogol isn’t ready to settle down and start a family yet. As he was conversing with his mother about family and settling down, he goes back to their other conversations about this topic and thinks, “When he tells her that he isn’t even thirty, she tells him that by that age she had already celebrated her tenth wedding anniversary” (Lahiri 191). Ashima asks Gogol to go on a date with moushumi and Gogol is hesitant and reluctant since he doesn’t want to settle down yet and start a family. Gogol takes Moushumi out on a date and towards the end of their date, he realizes that he’s fallen for her. The two of them then get married. The second unexpected event that Lahiri used was when Moushumi was heading to the department and notices an ambulance parked on the street. “Alice, the administrative assistant, had fallen suddenly by the mailboxes. One minute she was sorting campus mail, the next minute she was out cold” (Lahiri 255). This incident changed Moushumi’s perspective of the world. Moushumi started to think about how things could happen so suddenly. The third event that Lahiri used was when Ashima decided to divide her time between America and Calcutta. Ashima decided that she would spend half a year in America and the other half of the year in Calcutta. Ashima’s decision affected the story because Gogol had just divorced Moushumi. Since Gogol divorced Moushumi, he was planning on spending his time with Ashima. but then Gogol realized that everytime he was in a relationship, he would slowly but surely push his parents away.

Moushumi experiences much of the same cultural ambivalence as Gogol and Sonia. Moushumi is already used to American cultures and lifestyles. Since she is so accustomed to these, she wants to forget about and distance herself from her culture. An example of Moushumi trying to detach from her family’s traditions is when she tells Gogol, “From earliest girlhood, she says, she had been determined not to allow her parents to have a hand in her marriage. […] By the time she was twelve she had made a pact, with two other Bengali girls she knew, never to marry a Bengali man” (Lahiri 213). Moushumi didn’t want to have a Begali wedding. She didn’t want her parents to be involved in the planning of her wedding, nor did she want an arranged marriage. Since she was set on the idea that sh wouldn’t get married the Bengali way, she and her friends made a vow. She vowed to never marry a Bengali man because she wanted to remove her Bengali culture from her life. Another example is when Moushumi is conversing with her friends about literature in front of Gogol. Gogol is looking at Moushumi and realizes that, “She is gloomy in the aftermath, as if seeing them serves only to remind her that their own lives will never match up” (Lahiri 238). Moushumi regrets marrying Gogol. She is starting to wish that she married someone as smart as herself and her friends. She feels self-conscious because she married Gogol, who is a Bengali man, and she vowed to never marry a Bengali man.

The title, The Namesake, is extremely important to the story. The story is aimed at the people who, like Gogol, don’t like their name. As Gogol becomes older, he starts to think that his name is odd, stupid, and doesn’t fit his image. Gogol doesn’t realize that his name is a reminder of a very significant event in his father’s life. Ashoke tells him why he is named Gogol and the significance of that name to him. After Ashoke reveals the true meaning behind Gogol’s name, Gogol asks if he reminds Ashoke of that terrible night. Ashoke responds with, “Not at all…You remind me of everything that followed” (Lahiri 124). Gogol was worried that he was a reminder of a terrible night that could’ve taken his father’s life, but in reality, he reminded his father of the second chance at life that he was given. Gogol didn’t know how much his name meant to his father, but after hearing the true meaning and the backstory, he viewed his name is a different light. He learned to love his nae the way his father did.

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Analytical Essay on The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism around Hester Prynne. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-the-scarlet-letter-symbolism-around-hester-prynne/
“Analytical Essay on The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism around Hester Prynne.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-the-scarlet-letter-symbolism-around-hester-prynne/
Analytical Essay on The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism around Hester Prynne. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-the-scarlet-letter-symbolism-around-hester-prynne/> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].
Analytical Essay on The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism around Hester Prynne [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-the-scarlet-letter-symbolism-around-hester-prynne/
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