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Kenneth Kang

Tuesday, December 17, 1996


In Class Essay

Dramatic Irony in Chapter 12

  1. Meteor
  2. Hester
  3. Dimmesdale's secret maschism

Nathaniel Hawthorne uses dramatic irony to create a conflict within Dimmesdale and create further tension between the main characters.

Hidden from the rest of the world, the minister has condemned himself for his sin. His adulterous act with Hester is not discovered by the town and its investigation. He imagines his demise as he stands in the night on the platform where Hester stood. Pearl asks if he would join them, and he says no. Dimmesdale wants his secret crime to remain a secret. He ironically preaches about salvation as a renouned minister. Dimmesdale is ironically guiding the rest of the town to salvation as he condemns himself. Dimmesdale's secret, known only by Chillingworth and Hester, drives him to insanity and nearly to death. The use of dramatic irony in Dimmesdale's predicament illustrates the internal strife which is whittling away at the minister.

In another instance of dramatic irony, a meteor, burns up in atmospheric entry. As these celetial phenonmenon are rare, the townspeople often look at these events as signs from God. This red shooting star gives Dimmesdale a reminder of his guilt as he stands there, on the platform. Imagining all the townspeople looking at him, he belongs there. However, the "pious" townspeople interpret the star differently. They saw the meteor form the dull red "A" and think that it is a sign of an angel. The shooting star, not fully known to the townspeople, taunts Dimmedale, creating this tension which must be relieved.

When Chillingworth comes to the platform, Dimmesdale shakes in fear and hate of the man who haunts him. Kept secret from the town and Dimmesdale, Hester knows that Chillingworth is really her rightful husband. Also, as Chillingworth stated earlier that he would see the guilty party quiver and shake in fear. To Hester, Dimmesdale's reaction is the clear fufillment of Chillingworth's revenge. This instance of dramatic irony builds and creates more tension between Hester, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale. It is almost a battle between sinful humans, Hester and Dimmesdale, and evil, Chillingworth. In the enumerated occurences, Hawthorne uses dramatic irony to build up conflicts and tension, within and between characters.

Character Development of Hester

  1. Strength
    1. Inner Will to Shun Society
  2. Weakness
    1. Lack of Will to "Procreate" -- in the sense that she does not raise Pearl well
    2. Inner Guilt in Reaction to her Crime

Hester's character shows strength to stand up against society. She evinces this as she walks out of the courtroom. Despite her strength, she has a guilt, hidden away. To this end, Hester is taunted by Pearl, the product of her unholy union, and by her "A." Despite the townspeople somewhat forgiving her sin after seven years of austricization, she still shuns all attempts to approach her, pointing at the mark of her sin. This alienation, both self-imposed and a punishment meted out by society, weakens Hester to the point where she cannot be an adequet parent to Pearl. However, it should be noted, that her inner will to live has not been completely estinguished as she defends Pearl from "foster" parents and as she attempts to aid Dimmesdale by confronting Chillingworth. We can assume that Hawthorne sympathizes with characters like Hester, who do not meet the stringent Puritan requirements, because he presents her as a protagonist rather than an antagonist.