Utopia Is Described in the Spirit of Famous Novels
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The setting and the mood of a novel are very essential elements for a reader. The setting is important because it does not only paint a picture of the events, but also helps create the mood. The mood creates an atmosphere full of feelings that the reader gets from the novel, it creates an emotional setting. In the novels, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the setting and the moods are almost immediately established in the first few pages.
In The Awakening, the setting established in the beginning is Grand Isle, a place near New Orleans. In the novel, it states, “Madame Lebrun was bustling in and out, giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy whenever she got inside the house, and directions in an equally high voice to a dining-room servant…” (Chopin 2). From this sentence alone, the setting can be placed back to a time where servants where needed. Also a time where it was very common for married ladies to be referred to as ‘Madame.’ In the novel it also says that Mr. Pontellier “[looked] at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage,” (Chopin 3).
Just from this piece of evidence alone the mood from the beginning is very solemn. From the old time period, to just seeing his wife as property, a very serious and formal mood is set for the remainder of the novel. In The Scarlet Letter, the setting is also established in the beginning, it is in seventeenth century Boston. It says in the novel, “ The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might have originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot…another portion as the site a prison,” (Hawthorne 41). Even in a setting that’s suppose to be a utopia, there is still a need to have a prison in a new colony. It also states in the book that, “It may serve, let us hope…relieve the darkening close of human frailty and sorrow” (Hawthorne 42). From the hash setting painted in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne sets the severity of the somber mood. In both, The Awakening and The Scarlet Letter, a serious setting and mood are established quickly from the start of the novels.
Human dignity can be defined as the self-respect, value, and worth of human beings. Self-preservation plays a role in the concept of human dignity as it means to protect oneself from harm, a way to protect one’s own life. In the novel, The Awakening, self-preservation is something the main character Edna Pontellier lacks. For she decides to just escape societies mindset which differs from her own by drowning herself. In the novel it says, “The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace…she went on and on.” (Chopin 152). Originally, Edna thought she would leave her little crush and ideas behind and take on the mother role with dignity.
In the book it says, “She was a grown young women when she was overtaken by what she supposed to be the climax of her fate,” (Chopin 23). As it can be seen, the dignity expected of her was not something Edna desired, she wanted to explore her thoughts. Unfortunately, this is something not possible in her society at this time period, so she just kills herself. Going completely against the concept of human dignity. While in the novel, The Scarlet Letter, unlike The Awakening, self-preservation is present, as well as the concept of dignity. Hester, even though she is accused of a horrible sin, she still has her dignity. She does not have a choice but to wear the badge.
The badge that admits her sin, but because of this she preserves her dignity and values. In the novel it says, “She bore on her breast, in the curiously embroidered letter, a specimen of her delicate and imaginative skill…” (Hawthorne 68). She has to live with the shame and guilt in public, but she stays strong because her respect for herself defines her, not the letter on her chest. Unlike Hester, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale does not have dignity as he represses his true nature. He is an example of self-preservation for that’s the reason he hides his true nature.
As a minister, he is also a respected public figure, to expose himself as an adulterer would be incriminating for him, he will lose respect from others. In the book it says, “…all the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him,” (Hawthorne 127). To protects himself he hides his guilt of his actions, yet he is still different from Hester who wears her dignity and does not hideaway. Dignity is something essential to human survival as food and water. If someone does not have dignity, they don’t have respect for others. They especially don’t have respect for themselves, and they will only end up living a unsatisfactory life, as is the case for both Edna and Dimmesdale.
A title could be a straightforward representation of a work of literature, but some titles have a meaning that is more in depth and have a certain significance to the novel. The title, The Awakening, refers to the protagonist, Edna Pontellier. Edna goes through her own awakening in the novel and comes to understand herself. Her want for her own independence, not to be the perfect mother figure like her friend, Madame Ratignolle. She finds out her distaste for the domestic life society has painted. It can be seen in the novel through Edna’s thoughts, “In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her,” (Chopin 17).
Edna learns her place through her awakening, which is to be a great mother and wife, but that is something that displeases her. In the book Edna says, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose,” (Chopin 143). This is the mindset Edna has found with her new self-independence. This book title has a great significance as right from the beginning of the novel the main protagonist own emotional awakening begins. The novel, The Scarlet Letter, also has a significant meaning to the title. In the novel, Hester Prynne wears a scarlet letter “A” on her breast, for she has to bear the symbol of her sin, adultery. It even says in the novel, “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A…so artistically done, with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy,” (Hawthorne 46). Hester wears the “A” produly, she even has it embroidered beautifully.
In Hester’s case the title refers to the sin she wears, but to others like Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale it is just a symbol of guilt. Dimmesdale unlike Hester, hides the symbol of the A and that leaves he consumed with guilt. In the novel it states, “Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart,” (Hawthorne 123). To Dimmesdale, the title of the novel refers to the guilt from the action the letter “A” represents for. In the two novels, The Awakening and The Scarlet Letter, the titles have a deeper meaning and represent an important aspect/symbol seen throughout the rest the novels.
The idea of nobility in a person is someone who is of good virtue and good moral standards. For someone to have a noble death they have to die for a noble cause, with dignity. In both, The Awakening and The Scarlet Letter, there are character deaths, Edna and Dimmesdale. Edna’s death is a suicide, she decides to drown herself to finally detached from the expectations of society she does not agree on.
For this reason, the idea of martyrdom does apply to Edna. The idea of martyrdom is to be prosecuted or to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a principle and idea not believed by the rest of society. It states in the novel that, “She thought of Leonce and the children. They were apart of her life. But they need not have a thought that they could possess her, body and soul,” (Chopin 152). In the end, Enda couldn’t agree with the view of a perfect wife, the perfect mother, for she had other ideas and desires she wanted to act on. Unfortunately, her society isn’t in par with her new self discovery. Edna takes the role of a martyr, but that does not make her actions heroic or noble.
While Edna can be considered a martyr, it can’t be considered a noble death as it was also influenced by her own selfishness. She made the choice to kill herself not even considering her own children. It says in the book, “She would give up the unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children…she knew a way to elude them. She was not thinking of these things when she walked down to the beach,” (Chopin 151). Edna’s final actions were for her beliefs, but she killed herself not wanting to pay attention to who she was gonna affect. Which is why her death is not heroic. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale dies right revealing himself for his sin.
In the book it states, “That final word came forth with the minister’s expiring breath. The multitude, silent till then…save in this murmur that rolled so heavily after the departed spirit,” (Hawthorne 210). In contrast to Edna, the idea of martyrdom does not apply to Dimmesdale’s death. He does die after the final repent of his sin, getting the punishment God seemed fit for him, but he does it for himself not for his opposing beliefs. He shares the same beliefs of the Puritan community, which is the reason he knew that this punishment was fit. While martyrdom does not apply to Dimmesdale’s death, his actions could be considered a little noble, unlike Edna’s.
In the novel Dimmesdale says, “He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast, and that even this, his own red stigma, is o more than the type of what has seared his inmost heart!” (Hawthorne 209). The reason Dimmesdale’s death was noble was because he finally exposed his sin and took a count for it. After all these past year he admits to the guilt for not only the sin, but having Hester and Pearl account for it alone. In conclusion, Edna’s and Dimmesdale’s final actions are a symbol to represent their ideas and beliefs.