The Scarlet Letter vs. the Crucible
The edgy tale of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is comparable in many ways to Arthur Miller’s haunting play The Crucible. Both are set in Puritan New England in the 17th century and revolve around the harsh law enforcement of the time. However, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of a woman as she deals with her heavy Puritan punishment, whereas The Crucible follows hysteria as it spreads throughout an entire town. Hester Prynne, the main character of The Scarlet Letter, was found guilty for adultery and sentenced to wear a red letter A on her chest to inform people of her sin.
Similarly, The Crucible’s main character John Proctor admits to having committed lechery and is sent to jail for this and for being a witch. The antagonist of The Crucible is the girl with whom John Proctor slept, therefore breaking his wedding vows. Her name is Abigail Williams and she is set on winning the love of John Proctor at any cost. The antagonist from The Scarlet Letter is also a previous lover of the main character’s. Going by the name of Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s former husband wants nothing more than revenge upon she who betrayed him.The comparisons between Hester Prynne and John Proctor begin with the fact that each has been involved in an affair. The difference here, however, is that Hester’s affair was with the man she loves, whereas John’s affair went directly against the woman he loves.
Once publicly confronted about their misdoings, Hester and John take each of their punishments willingly, knowing that there is no way around them. “Were I worthy to be quit of [the scarlet letter], it would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport” (Hawthorne 139).Hester even learns to embrace her punishment, showing true pride in herself and all of her actions. John Proctor also displays pride when his punishment is brought into question. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name! ” (Miller 138) Even in the face of certain death, John values his reputation and the truth above all else. He, however, is humble enough to admit when he feels remorse, unlike Hester. In an open courtroom John doesn’t only admit to his sin, but expresses his regret for it; yet Hester refuses to speak any details about her sin and shows no emotion towards it whatsoever.
This lack of emotion shown by Hester is completely reversed when analyzing the antagonists involved in these works. The main similarity between the two villains is that they both have great emotions towards the main characters. “[Abigail] thinks to dance with [John] on [his] wife’s grave! ” and wishes to once again win his love (Miller 106) The main emotion held by Abigail Williams is therefore lust. In contrast, Roger Chillingworth wishes for Hester to suffer for her sin. Even if I imagine a scheme of vengeance, what could I do better for my object that to let thee live, – than to give thee medicines against all harm and peril of life, – so that this burning shame may still blaze upon thy bosom? ” (Hawthorne 62) Another large difference between Abby and Roger is how they react with the other characters in their separate tales. Abby’s popularity is crucial in The Crucible. If she were not to have had the support of the other young girls of the town and the trust of Danforth and Hale, then Miss Williams never would have been able to accomplish as much as she did.
On the polar opposite end, Chillingworth’s reclusiveness is a defining factor within The Scarlet Letter. His image as “The Leech” helps to demonstrate that vengeance will not bring happiness. Hester Prynne, John Proctor, Roger Chillingworth and Abigail Williams are each distinct characters with some common beliefs, habits, or past relations. All of the characters created through The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible are completely unique and commonly referenced even in today’s society. All of the above four mentioned can be used to teach moral lessons, regardless the time period.