Historical Context in "The Scarlet Letter" Book Review

Historical Context in "The Scarlet Letter"
An examination of the subtext within Nethaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" to define the impact of human behavior on the characters in a historical context.
# 128129 | 2,230 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2009 | US
Published on Jun 30, 2010 in English (Argument) , Literature (American)


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Description:

This paper examines how as a historical work, "The Scarlet Letter" cannot be trusted as to the accuracy of events or people involved. It discusses how Hawthorne's narrator is fully nineteenth-century, exposing views that simply did not exist within society until Hawthorne's own time and how, while his views make for a compelling and entertaining story, they falter in historical truth. The paper also contends that Hawthorne's life in the mid 1800s actually serves as a greater historical reference for the morals and attitudes presented in the story.

From the Paper:

"Historically, in an effort to determine whether Hawthorne's descriptions are accurate, one can look at the values of the Puritans as a basis for study. Beyond the social, cultural, and actions of the characters, however, "The Scarlet Letter" leaves much to be desired for historical accuracy. In truth, Hawthorne based the story upon his own cultural times, placing his characters into a time period in which he knew prejudices against sin would make a marvelous tale. By his time, the Salem witch trials were well known, and his background in Puritanical beliefs would have made inserting characters into that background an easy feat. Hawthorne, it can be decided, focuses on the story within the backdrop--how the characters themselves shape history--and seems unconcerned with literal historical events within his tale."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Kennedy-Andrews, Elmer, ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter. New York: Columbia UP, 1999.
  • Moore, Margaret. The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1998.
  • Murfin, Ross, ed. The Scarlet Letter: Complete Authoritative Text. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.
  • Reynolds, Larry, ed. A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.
  • Scharnhorst, Gary, ed. The Critical Response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Cite this Book Review:

APA Format

Historical Context in "The Scarlet Letter" (2010, June 30) Retrieved October 25, 2014, from http://www.academon.com/book-review/historical-context-in-the-scarlet-letter-128129/

MLA Format

"Historical Context in "The Scarlet Letter"" 30 June 2010. Web. 25 October. 2014. <http://www.academon.com/book-review/historical-context-in-the-scarlet-letter-128129/>

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