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The Scarlet Letter Essays On Sin

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne writes the consequences of one sinful act in a Puritan community. This sinful act involves three main characters, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingsworth. As The Scarlet Letter progresses, each character copes with his or her sin differently, and therefore the sin affects them differently. Shirley Guthrie writes, "There are three types of sin, 1) repentive sin, 2) unrepentive or hidden sin, and 3) deadly sin (7 types: lust, sloth, wrath, envy, gluttony, greed, and pride). All three can be forgiven by God's grace, but only through the asking in Jesus' Name"(pp. 105). Hawthorne allows The Scarlet Letter to be a backdrop, illuminating the truth of each character. This truth being that each character is a symbolic representation of one type of sin. Hester becomes repentive sin, Dimmesdale is unrepentive, and Chillingsworth is deadly sin. As each character develops, so matures the sin, which they represent.

Hester's adulterous affair, which is quickly discovered through her pregnancy, culminates in her wearing the symbolic representation of her sin, the scarlet A. Hester learns to find forgiveness of her sin though the trials of wearing the A. Hester...

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Sin in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Scarlet Letter                Sin


The Scarlet Letter is a novel that deals with the theme of sin. Throughout history, people have committed all types of sins, and whether they are major or minor, people have been punished. However, the severity of a punishment is very difficult to agree on. Some people feel that sinners should be deeply punished no matter how little the wrongdoing was. Others feel that a person's punishment should be based upon the severity of their crime. However, what many people overlook is the fact that in time, we all have committed sins.

In The Scarlet Letter, the idea of sin and punishment is the main theme of the novel and how Hester Prynne, the main character, has been punished for her sin of adultery. As Nathaniel Hawthorne states in this novel, "In the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike." This statement puts a big question mark on the true lives of the Puritans. If we all have once committed a moral wrongdoing, why is this young woman so harshly punished for her sin?

Hester Prynne was a young woman living in a Puritan community in the "New World." Her husband, Roger Chillingworth was said to be lost at sea, and Hester assumed his death. Upon this basis, young Hester committed a crime of adultery with her fellow Minister Arthur Dimmesdale. The result of this extra marital affair was the birth of young Pearl, an "elf-like" child. When the townspeople become aware of what Hester has done, they forced her to wear an ultimate sign of punishment, the scarlet letter. This letter "A" for adultery had to be worn on Hester's bosom at all times.

When one analyzes the punishment inflicted upon her, it may seem harsh and cruel, especially for a Puritan society.  It seems that Hawthorne agrees with this as well. Throughout the novel, it seems apparent that Hawthorne feels that the punishment Hester received was harsh and self-degrading. When one commits a sin, they should understand their mistake, receive their blame, and receive a "slap on the wrist." However, the punishment Hester received was far worse emotionally. Wearing the letter made Hester the talk-about of the town. When she walked through the marketplace, she received scornful looks, as if society was rejecting her for her wrongdoing. Hester was now living on the outskirts of town, isolated from neighbors and trying to communicate with her daughter Pearl.

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Sin In Hawthorne         Scarlet Letter         Puritan Community         Young Woman         Roger Chillingworth         Hester Prynne         Many People         Main Character        




After many years of being swept out of society, Hester realized that her punishment was far worse than she deserved.

Many times throughout the novel, Hawthorne sympathizes with Hester because of the emotional problems she encounters. Hawthorne sees her as the victim and blames it on her youth. She was forced to marry Roger Chillingworth at a young age, although she clearly had no feelings for him. Secondly, Hester's crime was one out of passion, not malice. It is clear throughout the novel that she has strong feelings for Dimmesdale and they outweigh her respect for the Puritan's code of law. Although Hawthorne does not condone adultery, he often feels that Hester's sin is somewhat out of necessity. She has nobody in her life. Her husband is lost at sea and she lives with alone.

Dimmesdale was the first man Hester really loved, and he feels that because of these circumstances, her punishment far outweighed her crime. Throughout the novel, it is very clear that Hester does not abide by most Puritan traditions and she clearly is not very orthodox. However, at times in the novel, it seems that she has overcome her guilt and her love for Pearl is unmatched, yet the scarlet letter always reminds her of her adulterous sin.

A human is very fragile and many things can hurt or upset them. As Hawthorne expresses, it is clear to Puritans that they have little or no sympathy for unruly persons. Hawthorne feels that once she has over come her guilt and has accepted her punishment, then Hester should be able to start over from scratch and unload this heavy burden from her back. However, that doesn't happen. This sin remains with Hester for seven years until her death, and the Puritan community never seems to forgive her for her sins.

It is very clear that in this novel, Hawthorne is attempting to express his feelings on Puritan life and their rigid beliefs towards transgressors. However, people should be able to leave the past behind them and start over, yet that never seems to happen, and Hester is forced to drag this guilt around with her, until her last breath of air.