Valuable Lessons Learned through the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Throughout his works, Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes symbolism to present a certain theme that pertains to human nature and life. In his works, The Scarlet Letter and The Ministers Black Veil, Hawthorne uses symbolism to present a common theme pertaining to religion: Though manifested sin will ostracize one from society, unconfessed sin will destroy the soul. However, in his short story, The Birthmark, the author uses symbolism to present a theme that pertains to nature instead of religion. In this work, Hawthorne uses symbolism to present a theme that nature is perfect and should not be tampered with by mankind.
The central theme in The Scarlet Letter is that though manifested sin will ostracize one from society, unconfessed sin will lead to the destruction of the inner spirit. He uses the symbol of the scarlet letter to bring out this idea. In the novel, Hester is forced to wear the scarlet letter A (a symbol of her sin) because she committed adultery with the clergyman, Dimmesdale. Because the publics knowledge of her sin, Hester is excluded physically, mentally, and socially from the normal society of the Puritan settlement. She lives on the outskirts of town in a small cottage where she makes her living as a seamstress. Though she is known to be a great sewer amongst the people, Hester is still not able to sew certain items, such as a new brides veil. Hester also has no interaction with others; instead she is taunted, if not completely ignored, by all that pass her by. Despite the ill treatment of the society, Hesters soul is not diluted, instead, she flourishes and improves herself in spite of the burden of wearing the letter A. Her good works, such as helping the less fortunate, strengthen her inner spirit, and eventually partially welcome her back to the society that once shunned her.
In contrast to Hesters flourishing through her confessed sin, Dimmesdale suffers through the nonconfession of his sin that he holds secretly within him. He suffers total deterioration, both physical and mental due to his hiding of his adultery and not claiming Pearl as his daughter. It is only when he announces to the public atop the scaffold that he gains relief and frees himself from the sin that plagued him, which allows him to die peacefully.
In his short story, The Ministers Black Veil, Nathaniel Hawthorne presents a similar theme to that of The Scarlet Letter. Through the usage of the black veil as a symbol of the confession of sin, the author is able to convey his theme that manifested sin will separate one from society, but will also strengthen the spirit of the confessor. From the moment Hooper dons the mysterious black veil, his parishioners, who once loved and accepted him, ostracize the Reverend. Even his bride-to-be refuses to marry him because she is unable to understand and tolerate a behavior, such as constantly wearing a black veil. As his life goes on, the people no longer friendly greet the minister, but instead, avoid him and the black veil that separates him from the rest of society. However, Hooper transforms into a better preacher. He is changed into a more effective clergyman, whose passion and energy came as result of the black veil. He also became one with power over souls that were in pain of sin. Dying sinners refuse to pass into the celestial skies until they met face to face with the clergyman because his veil allows him to sympathize and understand all their deepest, darkest secrets. Despite the many negative effects of his symbol of sin, Hooper prospered more than he suffered under his brave confession of his sins, and thus strengthening his inner spirit.
In his short story, The Birthmark, Hawthorne once again utilizes symbolism to bring out a central idea in his works. However, in contrast to The Scarlet Letter and The Ministers Black Veil, the illustrated theme does not pertain to religion, but instead deals with man and nature. Through the use of the birthmark as a symbol, Hawthorne is able to bring out the theme that nature is perfect and should be let alone by man. However, the scientist in this story thinks otherwise. In the story, the Aylmer tries extensively to rid his wife of the unsightly birthmark that is upon his wifes cheek. Though it is seen as a great sign of beauty by the people, Aylmer sees it as flaw which must be removed in order to make her perfect. The birthmark is successfully removed, however, Georgiana dies as a result. Aylmer, through science, tampered with nature when he should have left it alone. As a result of his tampering, the scientist suffered gravely.
As demonstrated in The Scarlet Letter, The Ministers Black Veil, and
The Birthmark, many wise lessons can be learned through the reading of literature. Hawthorne utilizes symbols, such as a scarlet letter, a black veil, and a birthmark, to bring out a theme, which teaches a valuable and significant morale in hopes to enrich all that read his works.