The Scarlet Letter

A Scarlet I: The Use of Irony Within The Scarlet Letter

"Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom." Through this statement, Anatole France, a 1921 Nobel Prize recipient, states his belief that irony is only lighthearted reflection. However, Nathaniel Hawthorne employs irony to reveal the distinctly morose themes of The Scarlet Letter. Within the novel, Hester Prynne, a young and vibrant woman, succumbs to the temptation of adultery in her small Puritan town of Boston. As punishment for her transgression, Hester is forced to wear a scarlet "A" to symbolize her sin. Although Hester's wrongdoing is publicly recognized, the similar misdeed of her partner, Arthur Dimmesdale, the town's young minister, is unknown. When her husband, Roger Chillingworth, reappears and discovers Hester's actions, he vows to seek revenge on Hester's lover. As Pearl, the result of Hester's adultery, grows from childhood, Hester's, Chillingworth's, Dimmesdale's, and Pearl's lives become inescapably entangled. The effectual use of situational, verbal, and dramatic irony allows Hawthorne to convey complex themes of sin and repentance in The Scarlet Letter.

When dealing with prevalent themes of the novel, Hawthorne often uses situational...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 933 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7487 literature essays, 2119 sample college application essays, 310 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in