Examine The Scarlet Letter critically as a love story in which love triumphs over various obstacles

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At the core of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel of secret sins are passion and love. Certainly, there are incidences in which the love and passion that characters possess propel them into unselfish acts of love which serve to overcome certain spiritual obstacles.

1. At the end of Chapter VIII, Hester's love for her child, Pearl, overrides her deep depression and loss of faith.  For, when Mistress Hibbins invites her to enter with her the dark forest and join with the Black Man, Hester tells her,

"...I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my little Pearl.  Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man's book, too...."

2. In Chapter XIII, Hawthorne writes that that "[T]he scarlet letter had not done its office." However, as Hester's despair continues and she wonders if she and Pearl were not better off dead as she "wanders without a clue in the dark labyrinth of mind," she is spurred by love once again. For, in Chapter IX she speaks with Roger Chillingworth, begging him to relinquish his formidable hold upon the minister's heart; she tells her husband that to do so would purge him, but he replies that the situation "is our fate."  Nevertheless, Hester resolves to warn the minister about Chillingworth and to reveal his identity. Then, with this new knowledge, the minister is incensed, telling Hester he cannot forgive her. In addition, he considers a new fear,

"Hester!...here is a new horror! Roger Chillingworth knows your purpose to reveal his true character.  Wilt he continue, then, to keep our secret?  What will now be the course of his revenge?"

Lovingly scolding him, Hester admonishes him, "Wilt thou die for very weakness?" Answering his request for advice, Hester tells him to leave the community and return to England, but he will not be alone:

"Thou art crushed under this seven years' weight of misery....But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! It shall not cumber thy steps....Thou shall not go alone!"

3. In Chapter XII, Pearl asks the minister standing in the dark on the scaffold if he will "stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide" and he denies that he will, "Not then, Pearl...but another time!"  But, Pearl does not wish to wait until Judgment Day; so, she toys with the minister, muttering gibberish in his ear, because he has acted falsely--"Thou wast not bold!"  However, when Dimmesdale does, indeed, stand on the scaffold on the New England Holiday and confesses his sin, having extended his hand to Hester and Pearl, Pearl rewards his confession with a kiss, transforming her from the "sprite" and "imp" that she is characterized as into a real person and "Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was fulfilled."

4. In a dying act of Christian love, the deformed physician Roger Chillingworth, whose heinous plan of revenge has been foiled by the minister's confession, returns to England. When he dies, it is learned that he has bequeathed 

a very considerable amount of property, both here and in England to little Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne.

His act of unselfish Christian love defeats his life of spite and revenge, thus saving Roger Chillingworth's eternal soul.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
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