The Scarlet Letter: Archetypal Destinations by Hester Prynne
References to mythological characters that people consciously or unconsciously recognize provide the writer with good examples of allusion to use across genres, but the metaphorical quality of archetypes in Greek mythology spawns powerful fictional plots and characters. How many stories have we all read, or maybe movies we’ve seen, in which a woman saves the man she loves with her own ingenuity? The Greeks perfected this tale, for example, in which Theseus volunteers to enter the labyrinth with the intention of killing the Minotaur but is successful only because of the woman who loves him. Ariadne gives him the blueprint of Daedalus’s labyrinth, as well as a ball of yarn to find his way back to this death trap.
Or what about Medea, whose rage leads her to destroy those she loves most, her own children, to annoy the man who has betrayed her? We all know real life stories of women possessed by mental illness who tragically choose this path. Even Medea’s lover, Jason, reminds us of the heartbreaking consequences when, despite the woman who sacrifices everything for him, he rejects her and chooses someone who is richer and more politically connected. Sounds familiar? They should. These examples from ancient mythology are the sometimes dark archetypal patterns of our own lives and subsequently the lives of literary figures whose consequences evolve from this tension. One such character is Hester Prynne, the well-known heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The scarlet letter.
Hawthorne and Greek mythology
Hawthorne, the most celebrated fiction writer during the 19th century American Renaissance, drew ideas for several of his characters and plots from his knowledge of Greek mythology, the stories he admired, and ultimately retell for the children in The book of wonders and The Tanglewood Tales. While the structure of fiction often resembles motifs from mythology, the three Fates, or Moirae, lend the imagery of thread and the fate of weaving especially well to Hester.
Parallels between Hawthorne and Hester
Life is the stuff of literature, and Hawthorne chose to create a character whose situation, at least the emotional pain he felt, mirrored his own. He had lost his job at Customs, money was scarcer than ever, and he had not yet earned the distinction of established writer that he believed he had earned. Pouring his sense of loss and injustice into Hester’s troubles, he gave his publisher Ticknor and Fields a partial manuscript of The scarlet letter, and the book was published on March 16, 1850, which resulted in good reviews. Today, scholars consider the protagonist of the seventeenth century novel, Hester Prynne, a moral and practical example of the nineteenth century, a literary example of today. The book also established Hawthorne as a literary example in his own day.
The thread and the three destinies
In the patriarchal framework of the 17th century book, the Puritans view women as the weaker sex, an attitude that actually saves Hester from the gallows, the usual punishment for the crime of adultery. Her new husband, who two years earlier sent her to Boston without him and then lost at sea, unexpectedly returns to find her publicly humiliated on the scaffold with a child who is not his, but the name of this child’s father will be withheld. carefully and painfully for the mother until the end of her life. Before the story begins, Hester has already fallen in love with her minister, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. Although the minister is supposed to protect this helpless woman alone in the New England wilderness, he becomes the father of her child, yet she is firm in her decision not to reveal her identity and ruin her esteemed position in the puritan community. At this point, if she is to stay close to him in Boston, she must look out for the well-being of her and her daughter Pearl, and she does so through her skillful sewing and embroidery.
Thread and sewing in any context seem to suggest connections or ties that unite people, places, actions and ideas. The Greeks personified this thread imagery in the form of the three Fates, or Moirae: Clotho the Spinner, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis the Batch Dispenser, who assigned a length of thread to each man or woman; and Atropos, who cut the thread at the end of that life. Hester Prynne embodies all three destinies, as she literally uses her needle and thread to weave her own destiny, thrive in a hostile environment, and alter the entire community’s perception of her, from adulteress to Angel and capable-and at the end of her life return to the place of her sin and her loving commitment to live her life and be buried with her partner Arthur Dimmesdale.
Thread like Axis Mundi
In ancient mythology, the thread that runs through the sphere of the pearl is the world axis, and Hester’s beloved daughter Pearl, the union of fire and water, is the center of her world, a constant reminder of her mother’s sin. Only when mother and father are on the scaffold together in the final revelation of the truth will the demon girl Pearl recognize her dying father, an act that calms her spirit and allows Pearl to move on, to become a woman who does. will do. she has her own family, which she has.
After Dimmesdale, the man who cheats on Hester’s husband, dies, the evil disguised husband who calls himself Roger Chillingworth has no desire to live now that Dimmesdale is gone, and he too dies, leaving the daughter of Hester, Pearl, with her wealth. Mother and daughter disappear in Europe, but Hester, now an older woman, returns to Boston to tend to women who need the kind of comfort and comfort Hester long wanted. She wears the finely embroidered FOR once again, though she vanished, and when she dies, she is buried next to her beloved Dimmesdale. They are separated in life but also separated in death, with a space between them, and there is only one tombstone that says: “In a field of sable, the letter of gules.”
If the thread of life weaves and binds the universe of Hester Prynne, it is also a main reason for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s personal journey, as well as the microcosm of our own lives.
For more information on Hawthorne and Tthe scarlet letter, refer to the following sources:
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company, 1969.
O’Connor, Susan. Dlanguage elder. Bloomington, IL: AuthorHouse, 2008.
Reynolds, David. Beneath the American Renaissance. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988.
Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne, one life. New York: random