Hawthorne shows in The Scarlet Letter the conflict between social values and individual freedom. He also shows that this conflict is difficult to resolve. The Puritan values of guilt and punishment destroy Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. The "natural" values of self-reliance don't destroy Hester, but they lead her down a difficult and flawed path.
Little Pearl seems to redeem all of these characters. Hester, Roger, and Arthur all have strong reasons for their behavior, but ultimately love and concern for Pearl lead them all to abandon their pride and do "the right thing:" sacrifice their own ego for Pearl's sake.
One way to read Hawthorne's meaning is that the conflict between conformity and willfulness seems to be irreconcilable without the necessary counterweight of self-sacrifice and compassion. Society needs strong laws and it also needs strong self-reliant individuals, but without a strong heart as well it's doomed to conflict and failure.
1 Answer | Add Yours
One way that the novel can be seen as a discussion on love versus pride is that the two lovers disobeyed their society, and then paid the price in the legal and social ramifications. It was not just going to jail that they had to worry about.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes