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Pearl in Chapter 2 -"The Market-Place

In her lecture "Work and Money in Hawthorne's Fiction," Claudia Johnson remarks on Hester's role as an artist and the guilt both she and Hawthorne feel from taking pleasure in their artistic creations.

The secular calling is explored extensively in The Scarlet Letter. "The Custom-House" is Hawthorne's narrative of an occasion when he turned his back on his own rightful calling as an artist -- a calling which was neither rewarded nor approved by his society. Instead, he records taking on the more approved and monetarily rewarding work in the business world of the Custom-House. In short, as he writes, he sold his soul for gold. Each of the three main characters in the novel that follows "The Custom-House" are identified with their callings to perform work in the world: Hester as seamstress, Dimmesdale as minister, Chillingworth as scientist. Each, whether God intended it or not, has taken the calling of mother or husband or father. Each is also following the calling of artist in a special sense. Like Hawthorne, Hester, as an artist (with her needle rather than a pen), feels guilty about taking pleasure in her work. Chillingworth's scientific calling is referred to repeatedly as one of the "black arts." He uses his calling as a scientist chiefly to avenge himself (just as Hawthorne does in "The Custom House" and The House of the Seven Gables.) Dimmesdale is a sinner for denying his calling as father, as Hawthorne denies his artistic calling in the Custom-House. Dimmesdale also exhibits too much ambition in his calling as minister. He too is an artist, not only of the spoken word but the written one as well -- Hawthorne's own art. "A" stands not only for adultery but also for concepts linked to the callings of the characters: "art," "ambition," and "avenge."



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