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A Holographic Interpretation of The Scarlet Letter

Comprehension of anything requires a framework already in place in order to place it in out sphere of reference. Especially those that are “fuzzy” or difficult to nail down. The brain and the atom are not fully understood, but by comparing functions, structures, and similar operations to known items or concepts one can obtain a hold on the unknown and even extrapolate unknown processes from known ones. (For example, the brain is similar to a computer. They both have memory, input/output, and similar structures-transistors to synapses.

This technique works with literature nd a deeper understanding a grasp of a book’s meaning becomes possible. The Scarlet Letter can be viewed through an understanding of the operation and production of holograms. First, an understanding of the holographic process is needed before any comparisons are possible. First and foremost a hologram requires a source of coherent wave- like energy. The second is a recording medium of extremely high resolution to record the microscopic interference patterns of light.

The third major requirement is utter stability and freedom from vibrations. As for producing an actual hologram, here is described a two-beam transmission olograph. (So named because viewing it requires shining the same coherent light back through it) The laser is placed on a platform in the sand and a mirror directs the light diagonally across the table. A beamsplitter divides the beam into two parts. One goes to a mirror that directs the light through a spreading lens onto the photographic plate at an angle.

The other beam is bounced off a mirror and through a spreading lens onto the object to be holographed. The table is allowed to settle and an exposure made. The light from the first beam, called the reference beam, nd the reflected light from the object combine to produce microscopic inte rference patterns through constructive and destructive interference. Since light is a wave, when two coherent beams intersect depending on their phase they either add or subtract strengths forming areas of lightness and darkness that are captured by the photographic plate.

After development the hologram is viewed with light from the same laser at the same angle as when it was exposed and Presto! You have read a rudimentary description of a hologram’s function but how could a book compare…..? By drawing parallels between components f the story and those of holography and seeing how they correlate. Major components of each system should relate; starting with the most impotant component of holography, a coherent wave-like energy source. Do humans see an object? Or do they mrely record the photons reflecting off it.

Of course they see the effects of light, not the object or light itself but its effects. Just as humans cannot see light, in the imaginary “holographic” Scarlet Letter “life” cannot be seen, only its effects. So life, however defined, is the energy source to sustain that imaginiary world. The second major component is the recording medium, which is the characters themselves. From the subtle nuances possible in each character comes the resolution to record all that effects a person. Some characters are already developed (in the photographic sense)-their character records no additional patterns.

Chillingworth is static; he has one goal and affects those around him, yet they don’t change him at all. Humans see in three dimensions due to their binocular vision. It’s a process similar to triangulation. If you observe an object from a certain position and determine the angle to it then move a measured istance and again find the angle the intersection of the lines is the position in space of the object. The brain does the same operation automatically to obtain the 3rd dimension. A hologram reproduces the way light appears to the eye at different distances, but the amount of depth is limited.

Among holograms of all permutations, possible depths of field vary from a few inches to several feet in complex setups. If the analogy holds then characters must exhibit differences in depth, and they do. Characters like Governor Bellingham and the stalwart ladies of the village ave little substance beyond what is readily visible. While this “life energy” bounces around the setting of The Scarlet Letter various important things change it in accordance with real light’s behavior. The rigidity of puritan life, the preponderance of law and order produces the coherence and stability necessary for holograms.

If an object moves during exposure in the resulting hologram there will be a black “hole” where it was. Just as if someone rattles Puritan society a hole conveniently opens beneath their feet. The “life-light” from the village and that from the forest are totally different. The hard coherent “light” from the village marches on the forest, but the border between them refracts (bends) the “light” and each tree attenuates (scatters) it until it is no different from the forest’s natural radiation.

The village then views as evil that which withstands their society and represents, to a point, chaos. Since waves combine in either constructive or destructive interference, so also should characters in the book. Obviously the relationship between Hester and Arthur is constructive. Perhaps love is a synonym to a more complex reaction. Just as obviously, Chillingworth roduces a negative effect on Dimmesdale, one that eventually destroys him. Many symbols in The Scarlet Letter are mirroric in nature.

They reflect the “light” from other objects and focus or spread it so different characters receive different effects. The scaffold is merely the place of chastisement to Hester, but it holds great attraction for Dimmesdale who has yet to expiate his sin upon it. Yet other objects act as coverings and some as absorbers. They shield the characters or absorb nuances in complex ways. Dimmesdale’s hand shields his heart from view, as if its nature would be revealed to all or fresh knives drive into it.

All things considered, certain literature can be compared to a hologram with the act of comparison making clear things not understood before. Even as viewing a hologram from different angles reveals new vistas so does examining the allegory peel away new layers of meaning. Even in individual settings, such as the scene in which Hester reunites with Arthur in the forest, they and Pearl seem to be in entirely different worlds with separate lighting. Other scenes exhibit this dual nature and a little examination brings it to light. An allegory can give you much insight-look into it.

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