Can someone please explain all the functions of the supernatural and what they are in the novel "The Scarlet Letter"?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the main functions of the supernatural is to reinforce the ambiguity often found in the novel. For example, when Chillingworth finds the letter "A" on Dimmesdale's chest, the audience is give three reasons why it appeared, if it appeared at all. At the end of the novel, the letter "A" is again seen on Dimmesdale's chest and Hawthorne writes that some people did not see it at all. Some felt Chillingworth's medicine had caused it to appear. Some said it was a mark of God. The most reasonable explanation is that Dimmesdale put it there himself, but Hawthorne wants to point out how difficult it really is to know the truth.
When the letter "A" appears in the sky during the second scaffold scene, its meaning is also ambiguous. For Dimmesdale and Hester, who are on the scaffold, it seems to represent some supernatural judgement against adultery. However, many in the town see the letter as representing the word "angel" in honor of Governor Winthrop, who died the night the letter "A" appeared. Once again, knowing the actual meaning and truth of the event is impossible, thus reinforcing Hawthorne's theme that suggest knowing anything for certain in impossible.

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The Scarlet Letter

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