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A Thematic Analysis of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Keywords: appearance , reality , society , Puritan Culture , individual , religion , love , sable , gules

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Abstract:

The Scarlet Letter is yet another story of the never-ending conflict of individuals versus society in which the recurrent theme of appearance versus reality is central and woven into different elements of the novel. The significance of this theme lies in the fact that it is adopted by both the Puritan Culture to subjugate its members and hide the truth, and by a protagonist who claims a new identity and violates the Puritanical codes. This is traceable in two major binary oppositions elaborated in this paper as: Society / Individual; and Religion / Love with a look at the two characters of Dimmesdale / Hester and the two colours of Sable / Gules. This paper is an attempt to show how these binary oppositions work, throughout the novel, to stress appearance as a tool for fixing Puritanical codes, and reality as a tool for constructing new ones.

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