The Scarlet Letter as a Tragic Love Story

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is a good example of a tragic love story that includes the cause and effects of love relationship throughout the entire novel in different modes by depicting the different characters in different positions in their love relationship.

The Scarlet Letter

Together with the illustrations of puritan lifestyle in regard to the cause and the reality of sin in contemporary society, it focuses on the devotion and secrecy of love in its central part.

The love story between Hester and Dimmesdale and their outcome Pearl and due to which the position of Hester in the society plays the central role throughout the entire novel. The novel opens as Hester Prynne is standing on a public scaffold in front of the townspeople of Boston. A convicted adulteress, she stays there for three hours, clutching the baby that her illicit love affair produced and facing the scorn of the Puritan community. Hester has also been sentenced to wear a scarlet 'A' on the front of her dress as a constant reminder of her crime of adultery. It is an act of adultery only in the viewpoint of Puritan society, but for Hester it is true love, a true devotion to god. She wholeheartedly loves Dimmesdale and sacrifices her reputation for the sake of love and thought one day she would be with her loved one in a far distant place away from all these people who disdained their relation. But she was unaware of the fact that her own lover Arthur Dimmesdale has planned something else. He planned to confess in front of the mass and surrender. When she was with Dimmesdale on the scaffold and Dimmesdale confessed his sin of adultery, her dream was shattered at once. She had not expected that. Despite her deep rooted love for him she cannot own him. Her lover was in front of her, so near her, but still she cannot say openly that he is her lover. She cannot say publicly she has an intense love for him. It is too heart touching for such lovers who did a lot for each other but cannot reunite. So in this light it is a tragic love story.

From the standpoint of Arthur Dimmesdale it is not only a tragic love story but a torturous one. He is a young priest who also has a biological need for the sex, but he has to suppress this side of life in the name of priesthood. But destiny has something else. He fell in love with Hester and consummated her. They got a baby girl called Pearl. He could have led a beautiful, happy and satisfied conjugal life, but because he is a priest in a puritan society he cannot do that. In front of him, Hester is charged of adultery and punished, but he is helpless there. Though he is fellow sinner he cannot go along with Hester. He has to live a disguised life. He loves her but his priesthood does not permit him to accept her in public. He has to go under repent and regret, but secretly. He can neither expose his love nor his pain.

While staring at the crowd from the scaffold, Hester spots her long lost husband, a doctor, who sent her to Boston two years earlier while he stayed behind in Amsterdam. It was assumed that he had been killed in a shipwreck. Having just arrived, he learns why Hester is on the scaffold and vows to discover the identity of the man who has been her lover. Hester is questioned by the ministers John Wilson and Arthur Dimmesdale, who imposes her to reveal the name of her child's father, but she refuses. Returning to her cell, Hester and her baby are extremely agitated and the jailer sends for a doctor. The doctor turns out to be Hester's husband, Roger Chillingworth. Providing medicine for Hester and her baby, Chillingworth takes place. Hester confesses that she has wronged him, but nevertheless refuses to give Chillingworth her lover's name. She goes agree, however, to his request that she conceals the fact that he is her husband. Here her husband loses his love. Though he is a lawful husband of Hester, he cannot stay with her and cannot claim her. He had sent her to that town and returned after two years expecting his beautiful wife would be waiting for him, but on the contrary, he found her standing on the scaffold on charges of adultery and its consequence, Pearl. It was a great blow to his love.