The Scarlet LetterIt is six in the morning at an Arizona prison. A prisoner named Jonas has been awoken by the prison bell, which sounds more like a horn, and signals that it is time for the prisoners to awake. Jonas quickly gets up, makes his bed and then stands at the door of his cell awaiting a prison guard who will be doing the daily check of his cell.
While waiting for the guard, Jonas thinks to himself about what his day will be like, but he soon realizes that it will be the same as the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, and so on. Jonas then grows quickly depressed, for he realizes, as he always does, that his life is filled with repetition and he is trapped by it. Like Jonas, many characters in the novel, The Scarlet Letter, experience the feeling of being caught in one way or another . Among those characters are Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl Prynne and Hester Prynne. These characters are truly affected by entrapment.
From beginning to end, many factors contribute to making Mr. Dimmesdale feel trapped in one way or another. To start, he is trapped in silence and pain.
His need to be silent and the pain that he feels because of it, is shown when he says to Hester Prynne, in front of the town, Hester Prynne, …
I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him , except it tempt him-yea, compel him, as it were-to add hyprocisy to sin?Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over evil within thee, and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him-who perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself – the bitter, wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips! (Hawthorne, 62).The town does not know it yet, but Mr. Dimmesdale is Hester Prynnes fellow sinner. Hester was married to Roger Prynne but strayed from her marriage and committed adultery with Arthur Dimmesdale. Mr.
Dimmesdale professes that his silence is causing him a lot of pain and that he would gladly stand alongside Hester to face the consequences of their crime. However, Hester remains silent and Mr. Dimmesdale is forced to do the same. Not only must Mr. Dimmesdale remain silent and full of pain but he is also seen as something he is not. On many occasions, “He had told his hearers that he was altogether vile, a viler companion of the vilest, the worst of sinners, an abomination, a thing of unimaginable inquity; and that the only wonder was, that they did not see his wretched body shriveled up before their eyes, by the burning wrath of the Almighty!..
.They heard this all, and but did reverence more.” (Hawthorne, 126). Mr.
Dimmesdale is feeling guilty. His conscience is telling him to surrender and take his just punishment as Hester has. He feels that he has wronged just as much as she has, and that he should be equally punished. However, it was Hesters insistence to keep his involvement a secret and he respected her wishes. So, he would constantly put himself down in front of others. However, no matter how badly his words were against himself, the public just loved him even more. Mr.
Dimmesdale was not only caught in the publics eye to be judged wrongly but he was stuck with the scarlet letter and all the unhappiness that it brought with it. On one occasion, while talking with his love Hester Prynne, the subject of the scarlet letter came up and he became upset and said to her, “Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!” (Hawthorne, 167). The scarlet letter is a form of public humiliation which must be worn by the guilty party to show everyone what they have done. However, since no one knows that Mr. Dimmesdale is Hesters fellow sinner, he does not wear one. Hester wears the scarlet letter openly while Mr.
Dimmesdales burns on the inside, tearing him apart. Entrapment affects Mr. Dimmesdale in many ways. Not only is Mr. Dimmesdale affected by entrapment, but so is his daughter, Pearl Prynne. Pearl was born and immediately shunned by the community . “She was a born outcast of the infantile world.
“(Hawthorne, 84). Pearl was the result of Hester Prynne and Mr. Dimmesdales sin and everyone hated her because of it.
Pearl was seen as the perfect example of what is considered wrong. She was seen and spoken of as an outcast. Being set aside by the community led Pearl to be trapped in a world where she felt it was fine to be violent. On many occasions when she would encounter other children, “Pearl saw, and gazed intently, but never sought to make acquaintance.
If spoken to, she would not speak again. If the children gathered about her, as they sometimes did, Pearl would grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them, with shrill…” (Hawthorne, 84). Pearl acted this way around the children.
She was very violent towards them, but she could not help it. She grew up an outcast, so when other children would approach her, she would do what felt natural, which was to act violently. Pearl was not only forced to act with violence, but because of the labels that others had given her, she was sentenced to a world where she would constantly be treated badly. Kids on the street would see Pearl and her mother and would say to each other, “Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!” (Hawthorne, 91). In this time, what Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale did was considered wrong and the guilty party must be condemned for life. This type of damnation was passed down the family lines. So, because of her parents, Pearl was sentenced to a life of ridicule.
She was truly trapped by these people and their violent ways. Pearl Prynnes life was filled with many experiences of entrapment.Pearl was not the only person in her family to experience entrapment, but her mother, Hester Prynne, did as well. First of all, Hester was trapped in solitude. “In all her intercourse with society..
.there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by the other organs and senses than the rest of human kind.” (Hawthorne, 76). Hester was banished from society.
Nobody wanted her to be part of their life, excluding Mr. Dimmesdale, and over time she became more able because of this banishment. However, she still would long for the day when she would be accepted again. This entrapment was truly hard on Hester.
Hester was not only destined to be alone, but she was also stuck to feel shame for what she had done wrong. Everyday, “… would bring its own trial with it;…
The days of far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never fling down; for the accumulating days, and added years, would pile up in her misery upon the heap of shame.”(Hawthorne, 71). Day in, day out, Hester would be reminded of her shame. She could never escape it. Everyday she felt more and more shame and guilt for what she did. However, this was a risk that she knew she would have to take to be with the man she loved.
She was forced to feel her shame forever. Her shame was not the only thing that Hester was trapped with. She was also trapped with the scarlet letter in one way or another. Hesters daughter, Pearl, reminded her of the scarlet letter, and, “.
.. it was a remarkable attribute of this garb, and, indeed, of the childs whole appearance, that it irresistibly and inevitably reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne was doomed to wear upon her bosom. It was the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life!” (Hawthorne, 90). Hester was trapped with the scarlet letter both in fabric and life.
The scarlet letter that she wore on her bosom was a fabrication that she was forced to wear. Her daughter, Pearl, was the living reminder of what had happened in the past. Even if Hester were to be rid of one, she would still have the other. Hester was truly a trapped woman.Some of the characters in the novel are truly affected by entrapment. Mr. Dimmesdale, Pearl Prynne, and Hester Prynne all experience it.
And this is an experience that people experience everyday, especially in prisons. Day in, and day out, prisoners go through a grueling day that was the exact same as the one before. This makes prisoners feel not only trapped by the bars but by the repetition.