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Weighing between love and hate in The Scarlet Letter

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Love and hate require intimacy and heart-knowledge. Both emotions leave the individual subservient to the emotion and become compulsory for survival. If an emotion develops into a discernible obsession, it may eventually abandon the zealous lover or no less zealous hater disheartened and dejected once he no longer obtains the object of affection. Excessive emotion bonds the parties involved; furthermore, the main difference abides in the way a society views it. Evident by literature, history, and modern entertainment, humans flaunt a fascination with love. Hate acts as the opposite of accepted behavior. Nevertheless, polar opposites often derive from consanguine roots: “logic-consuming” passion. Love demands to be viewed in a different manner than hate, even though the two emotions deal with the same evident infatuation. According to The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, both love and hate teem with passion; however, love functions incongruously compared to hate. Hate remains opposite of love.

Though conceived from sin, love exists as a direct contrast to hatred. Hawthorne writes, “Love, whether it be newly born or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the hearts so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world” (139). Heroine Hester Prynne, a ray of sunshine in the subjugation of her sin, displays rebellious yet benevolent behavior. Primarily, she resembles sacrificial love for her child Pearl. The community gives Hester “the mark of Cain” due to her sin of adultery. Authority figures believe that she seems unsuitable to take proper care of this child. With her headstrong disposition, she persuades the governors to let her keep Pearl. Hester insists, “Pearl is my happiness[.]—she is my torture none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life” (Hawthorne 77). Pearl is more than a repercussion of sin; she remains as a reason for Hester to live. Hester feels “[alone] in the world, cast off by it, and with this sole treasure to keep her heart alive, she felt she possessed indefeasible rights against the world, and was ready to defend them to the death” (Hawthorne 77). With a cold-blooded, duplicitous husband and a lying lover and a chiding community, Hester possesses nothing else in the world but her mischievous child and the red badge of shame. Later, Hester obtains the opportunity to take off her constricting cap and the scarlet letter while in the forest with her lover, Dimmesdale. No doubt, she takes it off without a second thought. However, Pearl throws a temper tantrum as soon as it is removed. No longer recognizing her own mother, Pearl “wildly gesticulate[es], and, in the midst of it all, still point[s] [her] small forefinger at Hester’s bosom” (Hawthorne 144). In an attempt to assuage her unruly daughter, Hester puts the letter and cap back on herself. Hawthorne writes, “As if there were a withering spell in the sad letter, her beauty, the warmth, and the richness of her womanhood departed, like fading sunshine; and a grey shadow seemed to fall across her” (145). Hester loves Pearl so dearly that she surrenders her personal beauty for her daughter’s happiness. Love is sacrificial; sacrifice is love. “[Loving] her child with the intensity of a sole affection,” Hester’s kindness uniquely endures (Hawthorne 123). Continuously, Hester shows love when she interacts with Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, her secret lover. Her affections for Dimmesdale, a man as spineless as an insect, is unrequited, yet Hester remains faithful by keeping his identity a secret from her intrusive husband. Pressure sets on Hester for the need of a confession, but she refuses to speak. Despite a bribe to remove her scarlet letter permanently, Hester turns the other cheek and boldly says, “It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine” (Hawthorne 47). Nonetheless, Hester truly lives up to the definition of love: one gives their whole heart without expecting compensation.

In contrast to the gentle warmth of love, hatred remains as a cold, bleak desolation. Puritan society builds itself up against Hester. Her adultery goes against their strict moral code: the rules pertaining to God, family, and social order remains crucial. Enduring harsh punishment, Hester stands on a pedestal of sin and shame. Daniel J. Solove writes in his book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, “[shaming] is an important tool for social control, yet it can be dangerous if unchecked” (35). Hawthorne demonstrates the danger of society’s injustice through one woman’s blunder. Not only does Hester feel the wrath of the community against her, but young, innocent Pearl takes in the ominous treatment as well. Hawthorne writes, “Mother and daughter stood together in the same circle of seclusion from human society…” (65). Though the Puritans prove coldness in their society, Roger Chillingworth represents the ultimate epitome of evil. Unable to immerse in flourishing relationships, he feeds off the vitality of others as a way of fueling his own personal endeavors. What is his ultimate desire? He longs to antagonize Dimmesdale. Chillingworth binds to Dimmesdale through his hate, and Hester binds to Dimmesdale through her love. Chillingworth slowly fuels off the torment of Hester’s lover. The hatred causes him to become corrupt and sinful. Hawthorne writes, “Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more obvious to sight, the oftener they looked upon him” (87). When Dimmesdale finally reveals his secret, he dies; Chillingworth perishes with him. With Dimmesdale gone, there is no longer a reason for Chillingworth’s existence. In the end, the two men simply meet the same fate. Throughout time, the absence of love in a person’s heart eradicates the soul until nothing but an empty shell remains.

Strikingly, love and hate are both powerful emotions, but that does not allow their respective values to be identical to each other. By its definition, opposites are completely contrary. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control belong to one set. Deceit, pain, sin, hostility, evil belongs to the other set. Hate is negative, and love is positive; both display strong emotion at the core. Having the same core does not make the emotions the same concept. Hawthorne implies that drawing distinct lines between love and hate remains as an impossible task. Love and hate are similar sentiments at the bottom, although love builds and hate destroys.

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