Chapter I sets the novel's mood. Hester, like many Romantic heroes, is imprisoned or unfree both literally and psychologically -- will she be able to break free? The literal aspect is obvious, she is in prison for committing adultery; psychologically she is a citizen in a Puritan settlement which imprisons or stifles natural responses and passions so people become afraid of their own human natures. People are between a prison and a cemetery; Poe would say the pit and the pendulum. We are immediately confronted with dichotomies: black of the prison and the red of the roses. Hawthorne was concerned with the social order, but he felt that it should not be stifling, having room for imagination and passion. Society should be a mixture, as should all people, of Head and Heart.
• Hester Prymme -- all emotion and no thought -- she keeps her self-reliance and ego and therefore she is flawed -- she must see herself as flawed -- transforms with her artistry to something noble rather than depraved. Hester is a type in American literature: dark-haired female who is a source of sexual passion, artistry, beauty, and sex -- she is these things but she keeps her hair (the symbol of these characteristics) under her hat and therefore under control. When she addresses Dimmesdale, Hester uses forceful commands, like commandments (1222, 1266-8)
• Arthur Dimmesdale -- the dutiful minister who cannot admit is own humanity -- he is all rigid order (Head) -- his fall makes him a better preacher because it causes him to be empathetic -- he hides his tremendous guilt inside of him which creates his Hell on earth.
• Pearl -- represents the unity of Head and Heart (Hester and Dimmesdale) -- she is all passion and natural instinct -- wild -- she is identified with the scarlet letter.
• Roger Chillingworth -- the ex-husband of Hester that becomes the villain and torturer of Dimmesdale -- he has no compassion -- all cold intellect with no heart.
The scarlet letter is the novel's biggest...