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BEGC-105: American Literature

BEGC-105: American Literature

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: BEGC-105/2022

Course Code: BEGC-105

Assignment Name: American Literature

Year: January 2022 - July 2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Max. Marks: 100

Answer all questions.

Section A


Answer with reference to the context: 5×4=20


Q1. (i) The white man, disguised

as a falcon, swoops in

and yet again steals a salmon

from Crow’s talon.

Ans) The above lines are taken from ‘Crow Testament’ by Sherman Alexie. The poem is an emblem of Native American history. The poem's title makes reference to stories from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.


Readers must define the term "Testament" in order to comprehend the title's significance. It refers to something that acts as proof of a particular occurrence. It tells the tale of how humanity developed from the time of the world's creation till the end. The "Crow" is portrayed by the poet in this poem as a representation of native Americans. Alexie draws attention to the parallels between the biblical storey and the crow's tale. Thus, "Testament" appears in the title. In this approach, the title accurately captures the topic of the piece.


The white man is being utilised by the poet without his permission from the very beginning of the poem, "Crow." Alexie has decided to use Crow as a weapon in this situation. Crow shouts in the words above, acknowledging that his treatment is just getting started. The crow will serve as a metaphor for the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and Alexie will guide the reader through many symbols to represent the white settlers and the current white majority in America. Crow is aware that this is only the beginning after this first horrible deed.


In the verses quoted above from "Crow Testament," Alexie compares white European settlers to the "falcon," a bird of prey. They swooped into the native American territory while disguising themselves as falcons. The poet is presumably comparing the settlers to cunning falcons in this passage.


The salmon is taken from the crow's claws or talons by the falcon. It's essential to comprehend the allusion to the "salmon." It alludes symbolically to the first salmon ritual that Native Americans held. The Colorado River's dams prevented salmon from entering the river from the sea. The locals were unable to gather enough fish to witness this event. The illustration of the falcon taking fish from the crow's talons by Alexie alludes to this notion.


Q1. (ii) If the red slayer thinks he slays

Or if the slain thinks he is slain

They know not well the subtle ways

I keep, and pass, and turn again

Ans) The above lines are taken from ‘Brahma’ by Emerson. The American philosopher, author, and poet Emerson summarises Hinduism and spirituality in his poem Brahma. This poem explores fundamental spiritual and metaphysical ideas while also having practical applications to everyday life.


The poem is first-person narrated. It is the voice of someone who has attained the highest level of enlightenment. While the imagery and framework come from Hinduism, the insights are based on first-hand accounts of enlightened saints and sages from various traditions. It is also Brahma's voice, the supreme God according to Hinduism. There are numerous deities in Hinduism, much as there are numerous saints, angels, and archangels in the Bible; however, the highest deity in Christianity is the Father, while in Hinduism the term used is Brahma.


The first stanza's message is that life does not end at death, and the red slayer can stand in for anybody who kills. Most individuals constantly worry about getting old and dying. We are afraid of suffering and death. Death is kept out of our sight by our culture, which elevates youth. Death is a passage into a subtler realm, and there are many things we may learn by carefully observing how someone dies. The Hindu goddess of death and transformation Kali is represented by the red slayer as well. The red-slayer moniker came about because she is frequently shown wielding a sword with blood spilling from it.


Emerson examines the immortality of the soul from the perspectives of a person who believes he can kill others—the red slayer—and a person who fears dying. The "subtle methods" being discussed are the delicate existence of the soul, which is concealed from view in most people's thoughts due of their attachment to material things.

Q1. (iii) But somewhere in my soul, I know

I have met the Thing before;

It just reminded me-‘t was all-

and came my way no more.

Ans) The above lines are taken from ‘A Thought Went Up My Mind Today’ by Emily Dickinson. In the poem, Emily Dickinson attempts to capture a sense of something abstract that feels a bit like déjà vu all at once.


The poet is unable to recall where the concept originated from or what motivated it. That is, it is also kept a secret when a notion occurs or where it was inspired. Unknown why it continued to happen. The poet emphasises its formless and elusive character by stating in no uncertain terms that she is unable to identify exactly what it was. According to the poet, she lacks the ability to define it in precise, definite language. The poet is not completely unaware of the notion, despite the fact that she is unable to describe it in detail. She is aware that it is known to her deep down. She can recognise that it has already occurred to her because of this. The concept only returned as a reminder; it never entered the poet's thoughts again.


The notion cannot be expressed precisely by the poet. However, an idea is only real when we can identify it. The poet is adamant about keeping the nature and motivation of the notion a secret from us. Therefore, it is clear that the poem's subject matter is not thought itself. The idea is transformed into a metaphor for the enigmas of life. It might be a reference to life itself, which, despite our awareness of it, we are unable to define in specific terms.


Once more, the thought's inexpressibility could be a reference to the puzzling ways in which the human mind functions. The mind's operation is as erratic as thoughts' appearance and disappearance, and it is just as difficult to describe in concrete terms as elusive thoughts. As a result, Emily Dickinson explores the numerous mysteries that surround us yet defy precise definition despite the fact that we are aware of them.


Q1. (iv) We slowly drove-he knew no haste

and I had put away

My labour and leisure too,

for his civility.

Ans) The above lines are taken from ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson. Two common themes in Emily Dickinson's poetry, Death and Immortality, are addressed in this poem. The poem views death as a normal part of life rather than as something strange and wonderful. The poet's sharp awareness can be seen in the well selected imagery that she uses.


The poet is taken for a ride in Death's carriage by a person who appears to be Death. The second verse elaborates on the link between the poet and Death. It is a calm, easy-going connection. The poet declares that he "knew no haste" and that death is not in a hurry (line 1). Death exhibits a comfortable familiar intimacy that gives the poet comfort. The poet bids the world farewell. Although she is too obsessed with living, like the majority of people, to wait for death, she leaves behind her work and leisure, or her material interests and assets. The carriage's leisurely motion also foreshadows the hearse's leisurely progress to the cemetery.


The author's death is represented by the carriage trip. She is riding in the coffin of immortality and death. Dickinson's admission that she had "put away...labour and...leisure too, for his courtesy" indicates her readiness to accept death. This demonstrates the author's acceptance of her own mortality even further.


She eagerly boarded the carriage with Death and Immortality after abandoning everything she had planned to do with her life. She may be aware that even if she hadn't left voluntarily, they would still have kidnapped her, but this does not seem to change the way she feels about the two people as attentive, gentle, and even nice. Death is portrayed as doing this for her while driving slowly so that she can reflect. The driver said that he "knew no hurry." He patiently and slowly guides her through the many stages of her life. Although it is travelling silently, immortality.


Section B


Answer the following in about 300 words each: 5X4=20


Q1. Write an extended note on the poetic devices used in ‘Passage to India.’

Ans) The poetic devices used in ‘Passage to India’ are as follows:


1)  Whitman was possibly the first poet to fully utilise the potential of free poetry. The long, unrestricted line with its unfettered flow reflects the spirit of democracy and freedom in its own shape, exhibiting a remarkable synergy between his form and themes.


For instance:

“Singing my days,

Singing the great achievements of the present,

Singing the strong light works of engineers,

Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvised)

In the Old World the east the Suez Canal,

The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,

The seas inlaid with eloquent gentle wires.”


2) Whitman uses the phrase rather than the foot to measure rhythm, and he uses the line rather than the sentence to measure thought.


Keeping in view this point, we should. examine the following lines:

“Passage to India!

Lo, soul, seest than not God’s purpose from the first?

The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,

The races, neighbours, to marry and be given in marriage,

The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,

The lands to be welded together.”


3) 'The catalogue' is one of the poetry of Walt Whitman's that stands out.


For instance:

“The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos’d dreams,

The deep diving bibles and legends,

The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions;”


4)  Another aspect of the poetry of the Sage of Manhattan is "repetition."


5) Whitman also makes use of the literary trick known as "alliteration."


6) Consonance is the repetition of a series of consonants with a variation in the emphasised vowels in between.


For example: deep diving.


7) Whitman also makes use of "assonance," which is the repetition of the same or comparable vowel sounds in a group of related words, especially in stressed syllables.


For instance: brood and bloom.


8) We would also argue that Whitman's aesthetic in "Passage to India" might be characterised as practical. It was brilliantly modified to express the immigrant and emigrant American on the move, the still-unformed topography of a new continent, the vigour and romance of pioneering, and the dreams of a country confident in a limitless future.


9) Whitman's lines occasionally shine due to his use of concrete, vivid imagery, other times because to the accumulation of small details, and other times due to the employment of telling metaphors.


Q2. How does Hawthorne present the organic-mechanical contrast in the novel The Scarlet Letter?

Ans) The organic mechanical antithesis, or the fight between a person's potential for organic growth and the mechanical constraints placed on it by the Puritan Society, is a significant conflict that has emerged in the book. In contrast to "a wild rose-bush," which evokes the wildness of America prior to the arrival of the settlers, it is made plain in the opening chapter that it is the prison door with its numerous spikes and hefty iron work.

Hester is split between Dimmesdale, the "conformity," who requires a faith to "support while it contained him within its iron framework," and Pearl, the lawbreaker. The organic-mechanical antithesis emphasises how she visited the Governor throughout her stay. The scarlet letter draws flowers, and Hester is frequently compared to common flowers. The Governor Bellingham Mansion is "further ornamented with bizarre and seemingly cabalistic symbols and diagrams" and has "stucco in which bits of broken glass are plentifully intermixed."


The "iron hammer that hung at the portal," the varied furnishings inside the gilded volumes, and the faux oaken flowers carved on the furniture all complement the mechanical appearance. Modern suits of mail magnify the scarlet letter, making Pearl appear impish, much as a "mechanical" society distorts and exaggerates personal observation.


Hester is now supported by this artificial home in contrast to the natural sea and forest, which prompts her to urge Dimmesdale to take action in words evocative of Hawthorne's contemporary Emerson of "Self-Reliance": "Exchange the false life of thine for a true one." Each green leaf is cheered, and the yellow fallen leaves are transformed into gold, echoing the organic nature's sympathy for their rekindled love.


Additionally, there is a distinction between flowers and weeds. Weeds in general and Chillingworth in particular are connected to moral evil. Chillingworth is related to "black weeds" that have emerged from a heart that has been buried with "vegetable wickedness." Weeds and black blooms are often associated with the Puritan community. Puritan kids are the "weeds" that Pearl attacks. There are various situations when Hester is associated with weeds and black blooms. She advises Dimmesdale to let their love "bloom as it may," like a "black flower."


Q3. Write a critical appreciation of the poem “O Captain! My Captain!.”

Ans) The poem O Captain! My Captain!, written by a distinguished representative democratic poet of America, has been categorised as an elegy. The poem was composed in response to the passing of America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. A song written in a sombre, depressing tone is called an elegy. An elegy typically addresses people's suffering and death, which is a sombre and solemn subject matter. The poem's mood is likewise incredibly dreary and dark.


"O Captain! My Captain!" describes the selfless acts and adversity of Captain Abraham Lincoln, who has now passed away, but his bravery, adventure, and unwavering will remain etched in the minds of people over the world. Everyone is mourning and sobbing over the loss of the great American figure. Not only do people feel depressed, but nature also weeps for the noble soul. The pastoral backdrop of the poem captures the dismal mood of nature.


The speaker mentions hearing people cheering in the first verse as he expresses his delight that the ship has at last arrived at its home port. The speaker says that, despite the joy on land and the successful journey, his captain's body is lying lifeless on the deck. The speaker begs the captain to get up in the second stanza after he hears the bell and wishes the deceased guy could see the joy. The speaker acknowledges that everyone admired the captain and that his passing felt like a terrible, haunted dream. The speaker contrasts his feelings of pride and sadness in the final stanza.


The self vs. the other subject is explored in this particular poetry. The speaker strives to strike a balance between his own feelings of loss and the joyous mood brought on by the successful travel. The speaker in Whitman's poem feels that he belongs with the other group, which is celebrating the return to safety. He stands out from the crowd, though, as he tries to reason with his emotional response to the captain's passing.


Q4. How did Henrik Ibsen contribute to the growth of modern American Drama?

Ans) The name and work of Ibsen, the eminent and revered representative of contemporary dramaturgy, have for more than a century served as a major conduit for cultural exchange between the Scandinavian peninsula and the rest of Europe, and from there with the rest of the globe. The Ibsenian theatre has previously identified his major turning point: from earlier heroic, clamorous details, and sorrowful character speech toward problematic tragedies that concentrate on commonplace existentialist topics that irritate modern man.


Ibsen detects the signs of an irreparable rift between genuine values of life and socially prescribed rules of behaviour while being deeply immersed in the depth of the individual psychic of society and does it with uncommon expertise. Her husband's mediocrity, hypocrisy, and selfishness are nothing more than a symbol and an obvious example of the absence of an objective marital institution. In such a setting, it is nearly impossible for anyone, let alone a lady trying to find "happiness" inside an aristocratic cage, to experience their desires, sentiments, self-realization, or basic sense of life. Ibsen's masterful work not only ruthlessly exposed traditional relationships' dishonesty, but it also gave rise to a fresh perspective on the place of women in families and society. Additionally, he brought up the significant issue with feminist movements trying to uphold women's equality and dignity in contemporary European society.


After this, Ibsen will perform a number of masterworks, including Ghosts, an analytical drama in which the issue of heritage and the tragic point of life are discovered, and Enemy of the People, a play in which social critics take a direct stance and seek to restructure the foundations of contemporary society. The author hopes to highlight the world's instability through these dramas and incarnated personalities while also illuminating the tragic side of the heroes' lives. The shift from philosophical-symbolic dramas to analytically prepared ones is a key step in getting a good understanding of social processes.


Ibsen significantly contributed to the societal transformations that had taken place. Modernism was becoming more prevalent across society, not only in the theatre. With his brilliant topics and intriguing characters, Ibsen pioneered modern theatre.

Section C


Answer the following questions in about 600 words each: 4X15=60


Q1. Do you agree with the view that the twentieth century short story primarily offers perceptions on human characters? Give reasons in support of your answer.

Ans) Yes, I agree with the view that the twentieth century short story primarily offers perceptions on human characters. After analysing ‘On the Gull’s Road’ from Willa Cather, below are some themes and reasons for the same:


The concept of love needs to be explored between the characters the most out of all the themes in the stories. It may be argued that by letting readers inside his history, the narrator shows them the experience when he felt a love that shouldn't exist. Overall, the tale recalls a time when the narrator was impressionable and believed he had discovered true love unlike any other. Cather can highlight these feelings and explore how obstacles prevented true love by using flashbacks. Strict attention to rules and regulations is a motif Cather makes clear in the narrative. Alexandra fought for the integrity of their marriage despite the alleged extramarital affairs and lack of passion between the couple. Overall, Alexandra made the decision to uphold her obligation and duty as a wife despite the temptation to elope with the narrator and her own feelings.


Cather uses the river in the novel as a metaphor for Alexandra's developing amorous feelings. This symbolism helps readers understand how the main characters' relationships are changing as the novel progresses. According to Woodress, "Cather evokes sexual desire by repeatedly equating Mrs. Ebbling with the sea, as though she were Venus, emerging on her scallop, and characterising her with sea metaphors" (201). Readers can understand the depth and, in some ways, the intensity of Alexandra's feelings by connecting them to the water. The narrator experienced this emotion during his conversation with Alexandra on board the ship.


On the Gulls Road by Cather still makes me think of a narrator who has fallen in love but had to give in because of difficulties and circumstances. The author is able to portray deep feelings such as sadness, longing, and a love that failed because of other commitments thanks to her ability to make compelling stories that have depth and meaning for readers. The story's use of flashbacks to describe former romances allows for the construction of a nostalgic mood in which the protagonist was required to think back on the one who got away and demonstrate how, despite the passage of time, the feeling and sensation of desire persist.


Cather's writings serve as a kind of emotional autobiography, following the development of her most profound emotions towards the most valuable aspects of the human experience. Cather believed that the ideals found in the land and in humanity's civilising impulses, notably the desire to art, were what endured best and what made one endure. These things elicit a response from the noblest aspects of humanity, and they also have the power to elevate others. The open countryside and society can occasionally seem to be mutually exclusive, and some personalities never reconcile the seeming antagonism. But finally, according to Cather, one can have both the East and the West. She seems to have found peace mostly through her artistic expression, where she was able to admire and write about the region even while she was unable to live there.


This conflict can be resolved since it involves a tension between two possible valuable things. The propensity of society as a whole to allow the selfish and unscrupulous to ruin both the land and civilization, rather than this conflict, is what led Cather to despair in both her life and her art. She rejoiced at the same time because of the youthful promise, which showed that the desire for the country and for the arts could be revived with each new generation. Readers who enjoy morally upright, value-driven art will find Cather to be particularly compelling. She is regarded as one of the best stylists in American literature and is viewed in increasing esteem by critics and experts on literature from the 20th century.


Q2. Discuss the major theme of All My Sons.

Ans) The major theme of All My Sons is the ‘Theme of Social Responsibility’:


Arthur Miller intends to show through this play that a person's societal responsibilities are intertwined with his personal ones, that he is just as accountable to society as he is to his family. Joe Keller is of the opinion that his personal obligation to his family comes before his social obligation. Due to his self-preservation and private obligation, Joe Keller completely disregards his social responsibility. Twenty-one pilots perished tragically as a result of Joe's loss of social duty, and his own son Larry also passed away. From this, Arthur Miller seeks to demonstrate the reality that, in order for a community to thrive as a whole, each individual's social role is just as crucial.


The final words of Joe Keller, the sad main character of the drama, are the inspiration for the title All My Sons. Before passing away, he expressed his personal duty to his family by quoting the words of his deceased son Larry, who atoned for the deaths of 21 pilots as a result of his lack of social responsibility. This highlights how important social duty is. Joe Keller was taught social responsibility by Larry's passing. Chris heard Joe and recognised Larry's letter. Therefore, he cried out, "They were all my boys."


Joe Keller believed that his family's personal gain outweighed any harm done to society. His own son Larry's passing finally convinces him that he cannot isolate his family from society. Joe Keller acknowledges that his lack of social duty was directly to blame for the death of his kid. In The Scions of Shannara, Brooks declares, "If I have the means, it is my duty to use them." This makes it quite evident how powerful social duty is. While Joe Keller understands his commitment to his family, he is unable to understand his social responsibility. Joe Keller's concern with profit is what started the entire chain of corruption. Joe Keller overlooked that society and personal life are linked and fused into one.


Other characters in the play have also lost sight of their societal obligations. One such character is Dr. Jim Bayliss, who bemoans the importance of money over morals in his own life and how it keeps him from conducting medical research. One such individual is Sue Bayliss, who wants idealistic Chris to leave town because he persuades her husband against Sue's wishes. This shows how Sue has lost her sense of civic responsibility. Joe Keller, Dr. Jim Bayliss, and Sue Bayliss' failures to act responsibly resulted in the deaths of twenty-one pilots and difficulty for them personally. Due to Joe Keller's lack of civic duty, he lost his own son Larry. Gandhi argues that trying to avoid the consequences of one's actions is wrong and immoral.


Joe Keller confronts the reality about his own nature and accepts responsibility at the play's conclusion. Joe Keller has lost the respect of his own son Chris, a young man of moral principles, as a result of his lack of social duty. Joe Keller's abandonment of social responsibility leads to the suicides of both he and his son Larry. Joe Keller's narrow perspective on the world is contrasted with that of his son Chris, who sees how interrelated the globe and its society of various communities and people are.


The drama All My Sons often emphasises the value of social duty. Every person has a social duty to others, and because of this, his or her activities have an impact on society as a whole. Self-protection and social responsibility are both crucial, and both should be respected. If a person prioritises their private responsibilities over their social responsibilities, society will suffer, which will ultimately have a negative impact on that person's personal life.


Q3. Examine the growth of American drama during the seventeen, Eighteen and nineteenth centuries.

Ans) The growth of American drama during the seventeenth century:


Colleges in numerous colonies in the 17th century reluctantly permitted theatrical activity because they believed it would help students develop their communication skills for professions in business and law. Before more plays were produced, a troupe of British actors who were professionals started a touring circuit in the 1750s. This troupe became known as The American Company in the early 1760s. The first professional staging of a play written in America was The Prince of Parthia, a tragedy by Thomas Godfrey, which was performed in 1767. Many performers who worked professionally relocated to Jamaica during the American Revolution. Satirical plays were created during the American Revolution (1775–1783), either in support of or opposition to British rule over the colonies. In the middle of the 1780s, the professional performers who had relocated to Jamaica during the American Revolution were once again touring the country. In 1783, America achieved independence from the British colonial power. The Contrast, the greatest American play of the 18th century, was written by Robert Taylor as the first playwright in the country (1787). This five-act farce, which mocks upper-class conventions, is written in the style of British comedy and heavily influenced by Sheridan's The School for Scandal (1777).


The growth of American drama during the eighteenth century:


Before the middle of the 18th century, there wasn't much theatre because the early colonists in the United States had to adapt to tough living conditions in this foreign continent. The play Ye Bare and Ye Cubb, which was likely the first theatrical production in America and was performed in 1665, may have been the catalyst for the first actor trials in America because of their commitment to hard work, thrift, and piety. Due to the puritanical conviction that the seventh of the ten commandments in the bible forbade dancing and performing plays, numerous American colonies passed laws outlawing its staging in the 18th century. The aversion to theatre, nevertheless, was short-lived. The colonists aspired to improve their intellectual and oratory abilities through theatrical activities since they were aware of the new cultural beginnings.


The growth of American drama during the nineteenth century:


Melodrama, the most popular theatrical genre in the 19th century, was first used in plays by William Dunlop. He is also to be credited for providing drama with its crucial element, dramatic tension. The vast majority of plays created in America in the 19th century were produced primarily for commercial gain to benefit the country's diverse population, whose main interest was in attending the plays and watching their favourite actors perform in them. The majority of the plays were never published because they were only intended to be seen, not read; as a result, they are now forever lost.


Melodrama was the most popular theatrical form in the 19th century. Similar to what we see in Hindi movies, where a callous villain torments the girl before being miraculously saved by a powerful hero in the final moments after facing impossible challenges. Melodrama tackles topics like family, income, and social standing, which are concerns for everyone. ‘ Its generic, instantly recognisable character types and straightforward, formulaic narratives, which were easily adaptable to any desired scene, character, or event, were what made it appealing to the general audience. These plays' exceptional adaptability allowed actors to use their skills freely while utilising a variety of materials, making them suitable for any type of audience. The Poor of the New York (1857) by Boucicault, Under the Gaslight (1857) by Daly, The Girl of the Golden West and The Heart of Maryland (1857) by Belasco, and (1857). Through the 19th Century, melodramatic form remained popular, as it had done since the 18th.


Q4. Write a critical comment on the genre of The Scarlet Letter.

Ans) The Scarlet Letter is an illustration of the romance genre because it combines real-world and fantastical elements to convey an emotional and dreamlike storey. In reality, The Scarlet Letter: A Romance was the book's original title. Hawthorne describes romance as occurring "somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other" in the book's prologue. The Scarlet Letter combines elements of the real—a historically accurate setting, convincing characters, and genuine dialogue—with those of the fantastical, such the enormous "A" that lights up the night sky and the mysterious mark etched into Dimmesdale's chest. While the particular storey is probably not genuine, these otherworldly effects heighten the sense of drama in the narrative and provide the impression that it reflects a deeper emotional truth that transcends the story's specifics.


In because it combines fantastical elements while remaining emotionally and psychologically realistic, The Scarlet Letter also qualifies as a romance. A romance "sins unpardonably so far as it may veer aside from the truth of the human heart," said Hawthorne in the preface of another of his romances, The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne emphasises the emotional truth of his storey in The Scarlet Letter by speculating that the magical components might be the outcome of the characters' elevated emotional states. He suggests, for instance, that when the letter A emerges in the sky, it could be an optical illusion brought on by Dimmesdale's sense of guilt: "We credit it, therefore, completely to the disease in his own eye and heart that the minister...beheld there the semblance of a huge letter." Similarly, Hawthorne adds that several witnesses asserted that Dimmesdale's breast was unmarked when he passed away on the scaffold. The sense of psychological realism in the book is strengthened by these acknowledgements that characters' emotions affect how they understand events.


The Scarlet Letter, which was written in 1850 but is set in the 1640s and features real-life locales, characters, and historical events, is likewise a historical fiction. Hawthorne explores the Puritanical roots of our nation by setting his tale in 17th-century Boston. He also exploits the era's stringent regulations and oppressive beliefs to pose timeless queries about the nature of sin and guilt. As examples, Governor Bellingham, Mistress Higgins, and the narrator himself, whose life storey closely resembles Hawthorne's own history, are all based on real-world historical figures. Hester's penalty for adultery, the scarlet letter A sewn onto her dress, is reminiscent of Mary Batcheller, a real-life person who was ordered to have the letter A burned into her skin in 1651 after being found guilty of having an adulterous affair. Women who were found guilty of adultery had to wear clothing with the letter A stitched into it towards the end of the 17th century.


Hawthorne makes use of the historical context to imply that society is constantly shifting between restrictive and permissive modes and that many of the ideas and practises of his characters are a product of the period they live in. Both the "sunny richness" of Old World Europe, where Hester was born, and the generations that would follow, who, in his words, "wore the blackest shade of Puritanism, and so darkened the national visage with it," a reference to the Salem witch trials that would occur fifty years later, are contrasted with the gloomy Puritanical community in Boston. By putting his book in the past, Hawthorne is able to comment on the morality of the time while also contrasting them with those of the present and the future.

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