The Scarlet letter
, for instance, is a study of a universal theme, the problem of concealed sin, punishment, redemption.
Only the setting is provincial.
The story cannot be rightly estimated, it is true, without remembering the Puritan
reverence for physical purity, the Puritan
reverence for the magistrate-minister — differing so widely from the respect of Latin countries for the priest — the Puritan
preoccupation with the life of the soul, or, as more narrowly construed by Calvinism, the problem of evil.
The word Adultery, although suggestively enough present in one of the finest symbolical titles ever devised by a romancer, does not once occur in the book.
The sins dealt with are hypocrisy and revenge.
, Hester Prynne
, and Roger Chillingworth
are developing, suffering, living creatures, caught inextricably in the toils of a moral situation.
By an incomparable succession of pictures Hawthorne
exhibits the travail of their souls.
In the greatest scene of all, that between Hester
in the forest, the Puritan
framework of the story gives way beneath the weight of human passion, and we seem on the verge of another and perhaps larger solution than was actually worked out by the logic of succeeding events.
But though the