- 東京工芸大学工学部紀要. 人文・社会編 = The Academic Reports, the Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo Polytechnic University (ISSN:03876055)
- vol.24, no.2, pp.30-38, 2001
Scholars of American literature have produced innumerable interpretations on Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece The Scarlet Letter. Notably, each different approach to the work has revealed a different viewpoint hidden within the story. Here, the story is to be analyzed in relation to the lifelong inner angst of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. This new approach shows the main characters to be individuals into whom the depth of Nathaniel Hawthorne's psychological mindset has been projected. Arthur Dimmesdale, a young minister, reflects the author's internal struggle over his ancestor's past involvement in the judgement of witches, including at the Salem witch trial in 1692. Chillingworth, a diabolical man, represents Nathaniel Hawthorne's sense of guilt, and shows his commitment as an artist to observing people's inner souls. Hester's freethinking manner and way of life can be seen as Nathaniel Hawthorne's strong determination to become an independent artist, and one who is never to fall victim to the stains of the past and society. Nathaniel Hawthorne's longing for British culture is reflected in Pearl. The particular end that each character meets can also be interpreted as carrying its own unique message. Nathaniel Hawthorne is very negative about Chillingworth; the author shows no sympathy for his own inevitably sinful fate of peeping into people's inner souls. The implications of Dimmesdale's death after his final confession on the scaffold are somewhat ambiguous. It is uncertain whether he was saved or severely judged. More likely, there is a mixture of both elements, and his death clearly shows us that the sinful lifestyle of Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestors must end. Hester ultimately returns of her own free will to the puritan society of Boston, after having lived for a while in the Old World with her daughter Pearl. Hester's return tells us that Nathaniel Hawthorne's desire for freedom includes the possibility of serving the puritan society. Pearl is the only character alive at the end of the novel, happily married, and possibly in England. Nathaniel Hawthorne's decision to live as an artist includes aspirations of British heritage. Dimmesdale's inherited strong animal nature is the root of the persecuting spirit in the history of the author's' ancestors. Therefore, the scarlet letter A in the story can be interpreted as the initial letter of the word 'animal.'