The night (Darkness) and day (Light) share a true meaning with regards to The Custom House and The Scarlet Letter. I intend to review each point in order to supply a full comprehension of how each concept can portray a certain contradiction with regards to the environment and the Puritan law within. Nathaniel Hawthorne wants the readers to examine shades of what is acceptable and secret; what is honesty and freedom, and rules and repression. My analysis will review The Custom House and The Scarlet Letter, with acknowledging the juxtaposition of Puritan conceptions.
The Custom House was a building where taxes were paid. The surveyor, narrator, discussed The Custom House to be dilapidated and with decayed wharfs. His fellow workers mostly held lifetime appointments secured by family connections. They were elderly and mentioned the same stories repeatedly. The narrator found them to be generally incompetent and innocently immoral.
The surveyor mentioned how, not only the Custom House fell under the repetition of despotic religious men, the state itself fell under those methods. Nonetheless, he explained a son of a colonel, who was the Inspector at the time. With regards to the stern deceased Puritan Colonel, the son beheld a careless eighty years of age of deportment. The Inspector’s characteristics and disposition were compared with nature, as if his very soul were conjured by nature of both realms. The maternal (Night/Darkness) nature; the leaves of carelessness and freedom by which the breeze cast it without restraint; as if there were no possible way to manipulate the objector with true moral propensities. “With his florid cheek, his compact figure, smartly arrayed in a bright-buttoned blue coat, his brisk and vigorous step, and his hale and hearty aspect, altogether he seemed –young, indeed—but a kind of new contrivance of Mother Nature in the shape of man, whom age and infirmity had no business to touch.” (Hawthorne 16)
The realistic (Day/Light) nature, life has no boundaries; unbound by any man-made rules or codes. Where, in the somber twilight gloom, trees whispered of honor or conspiring revelations; nevertheless, each intuition relied with the truthfulness of morality or fallacies of the individual; in this case, the Puritan fundamental law or creed. If there were no repetition of fathers and sons of higher rank, there could have been another Inspector with exceptional traits. Ultimately, it was this realistic (Day/Light) nature capacity which could have saved the bosom of unjustified crimes by fellow natured persons with the proper understanding of freedom amalgam with sensibility.
The surveyor acknowledged the General Miller of a decent nature. His mien, quite militant styled, yet, he possessed a favorable constitution. “Still, even in respect of grace and beauty, there were points well worth noting. A ray of humor, now and then, would make its way through the veil of dim obstruction, and glimmer pleasantly upon our faces. A trait of native elegance, seldom seen in the masculine character after childhood or early youth, was shown in the General’s fondness for the sight and fragrance of flowers” (Hawthorne 20).
The surveyor eloquently examined the environment of the Custom House, with its ruins and old dotage men lingering about. He described two extremely old men, the Inspector and the Collector. How each, under the same heavens, displayed different components. The aged (Darkness) Inspector, oblivious of his surroundings and nature bound developments, was careless of his duties unless culinary delights were of the subject. The (Light) Collector, a military man with the heart of lion and a soul of bull, when given duties to uphold, he accepted them with honor; how he accepted his position of protecting his country. Each elderly individual, succumbed by the same (Night/Darkness) circumstances, however, one sincere—the Collector, “I’ll try, Sir” (Hawthorne 21), than the other.
Even thought the two men work together, light and darkness do have some shades of gray. The Custom House allows each man to dwell, one, a puritan, the other, militant, yet, the militant displays a countenance of light under the darkness of society.
The Scarlet Letter was a manuscript bundled up and written by an old surveyor from The Custom House named Jonathon Pue. The narrator decided to write The Scarlet Letter after he was fired due to a new political party reigning in The Custom House.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, a woman saw as sinful being, when released from prison decided to stay. The (Night/Darkness) Puritan men have branded her a shameful person; however, she decided to accept her fate, even though (darkness) society would alienate her and mock her. If Hester would have left, it would have only stated that she had allowed the false puritan condemnation to have won; however, staying and acknowledging the persecution in front of everyone, would prove that the crime she had committed was not a crime at all; though, an injustice of misconception and fear.
Pearl was another sign of darkness because of how she was conceived. Hester’s crime of having a baby whilst considered a married woman was against the Puritan law. However, Pearl, from a dark stand point, stands as a treasure (Light). The irony was situated within the Puritan law because Pearl’s existence was the embodiment of evil, but Pearl beheld no evil characteristics. On the contrary, Pearl was the true, living symbol, perverse of the Puritan law. Pearl was “the scarlet letter endowed with life” (Hawthorne 69).
Hester dressed her daughter in “a crimson velvet tunic of a peculiar cut, abundantly embroidered with fantasies and flourishes of gold thread” (Hawthorne 69). Pearl and the embroidered letter were both beautiful in a rich, sensuous way that stood in contrast to the stiffness of Puritan (Night/Darkness) society. Hester had worked to create an “analogy between the object of her affection and the emblem of her guilt and torture” (Hawthorne 69). This reinforced the contradictory nature of both the letter and Pearl, for just as Hester both loved and felt burdened by Pearl.
The meteor and its relevance provided a mere understanding of how the Puritans acknowledged signs; particularly natural ones, were of the utmost importance, and were read as symbols of divine will. Nonetheless, the gleam of the meteor from the narrator’s perspective was the ominous aspect of Dimmesdale, Hester, Pearl, and their relationship with Roger Chillingworth. The light affirmed the veritable bonding of them all in the pitch black, Puritan (Darkness) society, night of day and how they all stood as a contrast of the Puritan (Darkness) Law. Dimmesdale tried to seek absolution for his crime and guilt by standing on the scaffold in the dark, discerned no one was around to see him. Nevertheless, each individual perceived the light from a different perspective.
Aside from the Dimmesdale, who suffered internally from [A]nguish guilt; Hester, who shame was displayed to all by wearing the scarlet letter [A]: Pearl, who was the scarlet letter [A] in form; Chillingworth, who, persistently, [A]venged his malevolent mentality; the community, which saw the light as “A” for [A]ngel, as proof the governor’s ascent to heaven. This err interpretation only corroborates that the townspeople saw only what they wanted to see (shades of gray), a tendency that was reaffirmed the following morning when the sexton invented a story to prevent the discovery of Dimmesdale’s glove from seeming suspicious.
The forest was another dimension which stood as a contrast to the Puritan doctrine and society. The forest was a direct opposite of the town because the woods were wild and natural. Furthermore, the forest was a place of privacy and intimacy, which countered evidently to the public spaces of the town. It was appropriate that Hester chose to meet Dimmesdale in the woods, through which he would pass in transition between two human extremities—the repressed, organized Puritan town and the comparatively “primitive” and “indigenous” Indian settlement. As a dichotomy between the two, the forest served as a space between oppression and disarray, between censorship and absolute liberty. Although, nature, itself, does not accept them or what plans either of them had in stored. The sunlight epitomized “truth”. For instance, the sunlight deliberately ignored Hester because her plan to escape would not suffice for what was considered “true”. In fact, escaping would state that Hester and Dimmesdale have surrendered to the “sin” (Darkness of Puritan society) of the policies that invariably threatened them and all others.
Hester and Dimmesdale have opened the eyes of the reader because the reader could see what the indubitable definition of sin and evil signified. The sin, which Hester had committed, was a natural law opposing and injuring the social and moral order of the Puritan principles; the evil, Chillingworth for instance, who sought to hurt Dimmesdale, seek no one’s happiness, not even his own, but only to hurt others.
The struggle between individual (Light) identity and social (Darkness) identity remained an important aspect because denying who you were was not the truth, yet, a false existence. Hester realized the truth when she decided to stay and accept her faith; not allow the unrealistic Puritan (Darkness) law to burden her individuality, in fact it afforded her with independence. Dimmesdale also battled with his identity because he still felt the scriptures could salvage his pain and the Puritan ideology, however, the very law was polluting everyone. For instance, Dimmesdale could have helped a woman who approached him and offered his new-found nonreligious reality, however, he did not apprehend that utilizing her attraction to win her over to the church illustrated that pollution had already begun. “What he really did whisper, the minister could never afterwards recollect. There was, perhaps, a fortunate disorder in his utterance, which failed to impart any distinct idea to the good widow’s comprehension, or which Providence interpreted after a method of its own. Assuredly, as the minister looked back, he beheld an expression of divine gratitude and ecstasy that seemed like the shine of the celestial city on her face, so wrinkled and ashy pale” (Hawthorne 139).
In the end, when Dimmesdale finally proclaimed his sin to the town, none of the clergy members could have said anything and Dimmesdale became his own prosecutor and judge; furthermore, his death liberated him from the darkness of Puritan dogma. It would have seemed that the towns people would have regard his death as a sign that the Puritan clergymen, even all humans, inherent some sort of inevitable element of sin. But, they perceived Dimmesdale’s death as an allegorical last performance of truth to the Puritan law. Pearl finally became human because she was the direct source of Hester and Dimmesdale sin. The characters of the novel suggest that it was not apparent to differentiate between hate and love; between essential identity and assigned symbolism; or between sin and righteousness. (Shades of gray)