America's Declaration of Independence gives all men an equal and unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness and this right cannot be usurped by any other principle unless the latter is governed by free will. However, because free will is subject to individual beliefs and happiness occurs in a state of conscious being, a person makes the choice to be happy or otherwise. By the same token, if a person can choose to be happy, he or she may choose to act on any other emotion, or any other aspect of life. The temporality of choice is what makes the constant transition of past to present, but when the same choice is made repeatedly, the only thing that moves is not life itself but rather the dull hands on one's biological clock. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's riveting novel The Scarlet Letter, each character is bound to his or her past in an attempt to find justice in what is already history.
[...] Alas, Prynne neglects to take that risk and consequently, her energy is spent on what she can't change—the past and what she did—while the future and what potential she has in store for it diminishes. She has ability, but she fails to put it to use. A similar tendency is evident in another character named Roger Chillingworth, the antagonist of the novel who seeks retribution on Dimmesdale for his affair with Prynne. Chillingworth is the husband of Prynne who arrives in Boston belatedly to find her on the scaffold and her very infidelity is what drives him to devote the rest of his life to torturing the young minister Dimmesdale. [...]
[...] In retrospect, the direction Dimmesdale always went in was toward death. From self-mutilation to letting his guilt and whatnot use up his energy, the only real thing Dimmesdale ever had control over in his life was his death. The rather linear progression toward it was only a result of his failure to see another way out of things. Perhaps the most extreme of all three, Roger Chillingworth has the narrowest point of view in that throughout the novel, he is relentless and holds steadfastly to what he believes. [...]
[...] So Prynne lives the rest of her life bearing the scarlet letter and whether this brings her happiness or at least peace, no one knows. Though she eventually receives guests at her cottage and continues to sew, the last image Hawthorne gives of her before she is buried is the way sad eyes [glanced] downward at the scarlet letter” (240). To end Hester's life with such a phase is like coming first circle to the beginning when she first stands on the scaffold wearing the ignominious letter. [...]
[...] She is given the chance to redeem herself by interacting with the people who banished her and though this is difficult, it is a far better choice than living in solitude with only penance for supper. In moving on with her life, she could open herself to new possibilities, some of which may lead her for the better. For example, she may be pardoned from wearing the scarlet letter for life, outlive her infamy, develop a métier, find friends and even love, but all this needs a leap of faith. [...]
[...] Case in point, there are no restrictions put on what colors she is allowed to wear, but because she is so absorbed in and of her sin that she becomes incapable of separating it from the most trivial things she does, such as picking out clothes for herself. Another time, Prynne does something as simple as look into her daughter's eyes, but in them she finds a fiend-like, full of smiling malice,” which is a mere figment of her imagination (86). [...]
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