Sin is like an open sore that if left to fester will continue to grow worse not improve. Nathaniel Hawthorne examines this concept, as he seeks to connect with his reader. Many of his works revolve around a theme of sin and the effects it has on the mind, body, and soul. Sin is one of those permeating areas that has lasting consequences that affect all of life. Many characters in Hawthorne’s works go through their lives struggling as they try to cope with the guilt and shame associated with their actions. Some try to conceal their sin in order to avoid the consequences that will result, while others are seen outwardly suffering the consequences of their actions. Those who try to conceal their sin find that the inward consequences continue to grow. The Scarlet Letter is an example of Hawthorne’s recognition of the repercussions of both hidden and revealed sin, each having lasting effects. Hawthorne presses at a seemly biblical view of sin and its consequences, but he is unable to provide a genuine absolution of sin.
Hawthorne uses both characters and symbolism to point towards his view of sin. However, he rarely addresses sin as sin. “Wrong-doing and mischief seem to replace "sin" here, as if the word itself was not meant to be put down in writing. To define something that is only implicitly referred to and rarely plainly stated may prove a difficult task.” (Georgieva 52) In The Scarlet Letter, the reader sees the characters develop and Hawthorne’s belief that when sin is hidden it will destroy the person.
“This secrecy generates a series of double-binds where Hawthome's characters have to choose between two unsatisfactory alternatives. On the one hand, they can accept to share the secret and reveal the truth in an attempt to expiate the sin. In that case, however, they are condemned by the community and this is what happens to Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. On the other, they can choose to move on, without an open confession of the secret sin, and are haunted by that knowledge forever. Both "The Minister's Black Veil" and "Young Goodman Brown" are cases in point. At any rate, they will have to bear the burden of their guilt to their death even though they do not seem to believe that what they have done is sin.” (Georgieva 52)
Each of Hawthorne’s characters present a different response to this dilemma. Some characters make the choice to conceal their sin, while others have that choice taken from them.
When trying to understand his characters and some of the presuppositions that Hawthorne brings to the table, it is interesting to note that he utilizes Puritanism in many of his writings. The reader catches a glimpse of his struggle as he tries to fit together the seemly conflicting practices and beliefs of the Puritans. In the introduction, he gives what almost seems like a sense of duty to expose these inconsistencies. This presents an interesting aspect to the idea of sin and consequences. While he condemns the sin that occurred...