What argument does the author make in The Scarlet Letter?

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We can find many such ideas in the book's final chapter. The narrator says, for example,

Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!

It is important, as we see in the story, to be honest about one's true nature; otherwise, if one is not, it can slowly erode one's life and seem to eat them up from the inside out. Dimmesdale is not honest about his own sins and true nature, and the guilt tears him apart for seven years before he finally dies, tragically, upon the scaffold. Chillingworth also hides his nature from the world, and he grows more and more corrupt throughout the novel as a result of his hatred of Dimmesdale. Hawthorne seems to suggest that everyone benefits when everyone is honest about their own sinful natures; if people believe that everyone around them is sinless, then they will be afraid to admit their own sins, and this will negatively impact their lives. Moreover, not admitting their own sins allows others to believe that everyone around them is sinless, and this starts the cycle anew.

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There are, of course, any given number of "arguments" in any work of literature, and so you must not limit your thining to just one central idea. However, one of the arguments that most stands out about this book and its contents is the questions that Hawthorne seems to be asking about Puritan society and the nature of civilisation. Clearly, the Puritans are shown to be "civilised" in some senses: they have a system of rules and punishments. However, the text, in a number of different ways, explores the true nature of this "civilisation" by suggesting that, in fact, the Puritans are not necessarily civilised.

Consider how the character of Arthur Dimmesdale is depicted as a spiritual pillar of the community. Notice how he is first presented to us in the book as a man who "comes forth" with a "dewy purity of thought" that impacts the people amongst which he serves "like the speech of an angel." Yet, of course, his spiritual impact and charisma are built on a fabrication of lies, that he himself is tortured by. We as readers are left haunted by the question of whether he would have actually been a better minister to those who were weak if he had actually confessed rather than trying to live with the burden of repressed guilt and hypocrisy.

In a sense, arguably, Dimmesdale could function as a symbol in this novel which contains so many symbols of the way that Puritanism is built around hypocrisy. Hawthorne shows a society that is quick to point the finger and punish, yet is unable to see or chooses to ignore the sin within themselves. Note the hypocrisy of Governor Bellingham at the beginning of Chapter Seven and Eight as we see his very comfortable and luxurious lifestyle. Thus we can argue that the text asks some very hard questions regarding the nature of Puritan society and its hypocrisy.

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What was the author was trying to say/persuade in The Scarlet Letter?

I believe that Hawthorne was suggesting that everyone is guilty of something and that it is human nature to use other people as scapegoats. Poor Hester Prynne is a scapegoat, as is her innocent daughter Pearl. Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister who fathered the child has to watch Hester being punished and ostracised for a sin in which he was equally guilty. This thesis or message alludes to the story in the New Testament in which a woman was brought to Jesus who had been caught in the commission of adultery. According to the law of Moses, the woman was to be stoned to death, and the men were ready to perform that execution immediately. They asked Jesus if he agreed, apparently in an effort to get him to contradict his own teachings or else go against the established law of Moses. According to John 8:7 and 8.9:

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Every one of the men who was ready to stone the woman to death had to acknowledge to himself that he was guilty of sins that were equally bad or worse. Hawthorne used the same idea in his short stories "The Minister's Black Veil" and "Young Goodman Brown." The minister's black veil is a reminder to everyone in his congregation, which comprises nearly everyone in the town, that they have their own sins and should be covering their own faces. In "Young Goodman Brown" it turns out that most of the sanctimonious people in town, including Brown and his wife, attend devil-worshipping orgies out in the forest at night. There are other Hawthorne stories with the same general bent, including "My Kinsman, Major Molineux."

Henry James said of Hawthorne that he seemed obsessed with "the old secret" that people are not as good as they pretend to be. Mark Twain had fun with this idea in his short story "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg."

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