The novel “The Scarlet Letter” was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne during the mid-1800s. Throughout the novel there are many different themes and morals that are learned while reading the book. The theme of a novel is the main idea or lesson that is being taught in the story. It is also an author’s opinion about a topic that applies to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The theme of this novel that most connects and relates to the book is the choices people make determine what they will become. Once you make a decision that decision will stay with you and makes you into the person you will become. Hawthorne shows this theme through conflict. This theme completely relates to some of the main characters in the book known as Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. Each choice these characters make while in a conflict throughout the book influences them in some way, whether it’s positive or negative.
Conflict is a huge part of the novel because in almost every chapter of the book, if not every chapter there is some sort of conflict with one or more of the three characters stated previously. There aren’t just big problems and conflicts in the book, there are also minor conflicts that occur throughout the book. One major conflict that has a great effect on the book is at the very beginning of the story when Hester was being publicly shamed on the scaffold for committing the crime of adultery. The choice that Hester made by cheating on her husband and having a kid with another guy affected how the rest of society views her. Since Hester made the choice to commit this crime, the rest of the town’s people looked down upon her, made her an outcast, and publically shamed her. This struggle for Hester was internal and also external because of all the people publically shaming her. Hester had to start her reputation from scratch and it was really hard for society to accept her again as a human being. If Hester would have never committed the high crime of adultery in the first place she wouldn’t be in the situation at all so she has definitely learned her lesson. The second choice Hester made which positively affected her was not being ashamed of herself and not giving up even though the rest of society made her an outcast and gave up on her. This was an internal conflict for Hester because even though she did chose to do the right thing and stay proud of herself, it could have been easy for her to give up and get down on herself but she didn’t. By Hester staying strong and feeling proud to wear the A on her bosom, helped her reputation build back up by doing tons of charity work and other kind things. Since Hester was doing everything right in society, the townspeople started to let Hester back in. The people of the town originally viewed the A on Hester’s chest to stand for adultery, but after all her charitable work they now view it as able. If Hester didn’t make the decision to stay strong during these hard times she wouldn’t have been the person she has become. The lesson learned here is to always keep your head up and stand tall because getting down on yourself just make things worse.
The huge conflict with Arthur Dimmesdale throughout the entire novel was based on the poor choice he made by having an affair and a baby with Hester Prynne. This choice he made determined the negative impact it put on the rest of his life as a whole. The guilt that Dimmesdale had because of committing this crime is an internal conflict. As time passed since he has committed his sin, he felt more and more guilt and the guilt started to get to his heart. Dimmesdale started to feel so guilty he started staying up all night and whipping his back repeatedly throughout the night. He started to have horrible chest pains because of the guilt and he would have to keep holding his chest because of it. This guilt tortured Dimmesdale everyday physically and mentally. Dimmesdale definitely learned his lesson because the guilt he endured from committing this crime is what overall killed him. If Dimmesdale would have known the price he would have to pay for committing this crime was death, he almost definitely would not have committed the crime. The second choice Dimmesdale made, which was a wrong choice and helped contribute to his death was not admitting to his sin and not standing hand and hand with Hester and Pearl on the scaffold. If Dimmesdale would have done this like Pearl asked him to, that would have been the brave thing to do which would have made him feel better about himself and let him feel a little less guilt. It takes a true man to admit when you’re wrong, and if Dimmesdale would have done this the guilt would have started to go away little by little. Of course what he did will never be forgotten but it can be at least repaired. The price Dimmesdale paid for not admitting to his faults was his death because he died because of all the guilt he felt. It takes a strong and courageous person to admit when you’re wrong and that is what Dimmesdale needed to know.
For Roger Chillingworth, the first choice and decision he made that made him into such a horrible person was being Hester’s husband in the first place. Hester told Chillingworth from the very beginning that she wasn’t completely into him but she was fine with being in the relationship because she needed the financial support anyway. This is an internal and external conflict because even though Chillingworth knew this, he became her husband anyway so he himself put himself in this situation in the first place because it was bound for a young, good looking girl like Hester to cheat on an old man like Chillingworth. The price Chillingworth paid for becoming Hester’s husband was her cheating on him. This choice turned Chillingworth into a devil and all he thought about was vengeance which made him an unhealthy and nasty person. The second mistake Chillingworth makes is when he stays with Dimmesdale to keep torturing him and making him more and more sick just because he wants revenge. This is an external and an internal conflict. This is an external conflict because Chillingworth was deliberately trying to torture Dimmesdale for his pleasure and an internal conflict because by doing this, Chillingworth was becoming more and more mentally sick and devilish. If Chillingworth would have been the bigger man and just forgot about what had happened and not have tortured Dimmesdale every day, he wouldn’t have turned into the devil he has become. The lesson learned here is that two wrongs don’t make a right, so just because Dimmesdale wronged Chillingworth, doesn’t mean Chillingworth should be trying with everything in his power to torture Dimmesdale.
“I do believe that one way to have a destiny is to choose one.” (McGraw 2016) In this article on huffingtonpost.ca, named Your Destiny is Determined by Your Decisions, clearly supports my theories on the theme of “the choices people make will determine what they will become.” In the article it talks about how we have control over our own destiny. It also talks about how we can create our own destinies based off of the choices and decisions we make, the good and the bad ones. This directly relates to the choices that Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth made throughout the novel which determined their own destinies.
For Hester Prynne, her first bad choice she made was cheating on her husband and having a baby with another man, which determined her destiny of the townspeople out casting her and looking down upon her. Then Hester made a good choice to positively impact her life by staying proud and not being ashamed which kept her from giving up and helped her return to be the great charitable person she really is. For Arthur Dimmesdale, he first made a bad choice by having an affair with a married woman which resulted in his fate of dying because of all the guilt felt from the sin he committed. Then he again made a bad choice by not admitting to his sins which kept the guilt on him, which also led to his death. Lastly for Chillingworth, his bad decisions were not being the bigger man and not associating himself with Dimmesdale but he decided to keep torturing him which led Chillingworth to form into an imp. The choices and decisions you decide to make in the present will affect what you will be in the future because your destiny is molded by every signal decision you make throughout your life, so decide wisely.
Koifman, Natasha. “Your destiny is determined by your decissions.” Huffingtonpost, 20 Aug. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.ca/natasha-koifman/decisions-determine-destiny_b_7999966.html.