An Unnatural Family As The Punishment For Sin In Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

962 words - 4 pages

In an introductory paragraph to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works, Perkins and Perkins say that “Hawthorne elevated some of the darkest events of the colonial period and transformed them into universal themes and questions”(Perkins 433). One of these themes is that of the penalty of sin. In Romans 6:23, Paul says that “the wages of sin is death” and Hawthorne seems to share this view, or at least some version of it. This view is prevalent in his novel The Scarlet Letter. In it, the penalty for Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale’s sin is a family that is disfigured and unnatural.
Dimmesdale, the “father” in this family shies away from his patriarchal duties and stands by while he lets Hester do all of the work regarding Pearl. First of all, Dimmesdale is absent for the majority of Pearl’s life. He is present in the town but hardly ever sees Pearl, even though she is his daughter. He says that Pearl has, only “twice in her little lifetime” shown kindness to him(Hawthorne Ch.19). Out of seven entire years, Dimmesdale and Pearl have shared only two meaningful moments together. Dimmesdale has obviously shied away from his duties as a father to Pearl. Even though she is illegitimate, it is his responsibility to help raise her. He also does not deal with Pearl directly when she is acting like a crazed animal. He implores Hester to calm her, telling Hester to “pacify her,” through any means to show him “if thou lovest me!”(Hawthorne Ch. 19). Hawthorne uses specific images through the words of his characters to show how much Dimmesdale is shying away from his responsibilities as a father. As a father, Dimmesdale should be raising his child to become a contributing member of the Puritan society in Massachusetts. Instead of doing this, Dimmesdale chooses to basically neglect his child, to save his own image. Ironically, this attempt to save face for himself ends up leading to his death. The guilt he feels for committing adultery with Hester and not being there for his only child leads him to whip himself, starve himself, and eventually die. The final thing Dimmesdale does to secure his role as the unnatural father is refer to his child, his own flesh and blood, as having the “wrath of an old witch”(Hawthorne Ch.19). No normal father would refer to his child as a witch, yet Dimmesdale does exactly that. Hawthorne exemplifies the abnormality of this family in the way he portrays Dimmesdale as a father.
Hawthorne also uses specific imagery to show how unnatural Hester is as a mother figure to Pearl. Hester is in a unique position as Pearl’s mother. In Hawthorne’s Puritan society, the two were completely shunned from society. This led to Hester basically being Pearl’s only companion. Pearl simply does not respect Hester as an authority figure and mother in any capacity. Hester is not a natural mother...

Find Another Essay On An Unnatural Family as the Punishment for Sin in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne's Hierarchy of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

1402 words - 6 pages Hawthorne's Hierarchy of Sin in The Scarlet Letter        Throughout the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses on the struggle of Hester Prynne, a woman who is forced to deal with the strict Puritan punishment for the adulterous birth of her child, Pearl.  Yet, the very Puritan values that bring Hester public ignominy help to lift her to a position of respect in the community.  Although Hawthorne does not condone Hester's

Pearl as an Expression of Hester’s Emotions in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

852 words - 3 pages The Scarlet Letter:  Pearl as an Expression of Hester’s Hidden Emotions   In literature, authors often represent a character’s hidden emotions or inner thoughts by presenting them in a separate character.  Such is the case in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as he uses Pearl to express Hester’s inner thoughts and hidden emotions.  “Above all, the warfare of Hester’s spirit, at that epoch, was perpetuated in Pearl

The Benefits of Sin Revealed in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1683 words - 7 pages The Benefits of Sin Revealed in The Scarlet Letter       According to Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter, each of us is born with "original sin" we have inherited from the misdeeds of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As Eve bit hungrily into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, starving for wisdom, little did she know that the entire human race would thereafter be tainted by her "sin." Hawthorne and many others believe that ever

Resolution of Sin in The Scarlet Letter.

542 words - 2 pages characters dealt with it.Hester Prynne has a strength of character. She is very honest so she openly acknowledges her sin. Hester stands on the scaffold, exposed to public humiliation, and wears a scarlet letter on her dress for the rest of her life as a sign of shame. Her beauty and warmth go away, buried under the burden of the elaborate scarlet letter on her bosom. Hester settles in a cottage at the edge of town, lives a somber life with her

Analysis of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

1683 words - 7 pages is vast; Hawthorne critically explores the strict, inflexible Puritanical approach to sin and its implication for individuals and society. Hawthorne investigates the intent behind sin in The Scarlet Letter using Dimmesdale and Chillingworth in order to criticize the Puritan Code and to demonstrate the ramifications intent can have on the sinner’s ability to earn forgiveness and gain redemption. Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s sin of adultery serves

Exposed Sin vs. Hidden Sin in the Scarlet Letter

664 words - 3 pages townspeople. For punishment she is made to wear the letter “A”, for adulteress, on her bosom. Hester’s daughter, Pearl, is herself a symbol of the scarlet letter. Pearl is always seen with Hester just as the scarlet letter is always seen on Hester. In a way Hester is “wearing” Pearl as another symbol to express the sin she has committed. At first the scarlet letter is a burden for Hester but it eventually leads to her redemption and independence

Morality in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

2158 words - 9 pages only raise. The irony in the fact that she became a model citizen in the eyes of the Puritans only points to Hawthorne's distaste for the Puritan way of life, for Hester manifested a perfect Janus; a two faced entity of whom no one knew the true nature. Physically, the Puritans loved her behavior, actions, and example.   Mentally, however, the community might not have been as pleased. The scarlet letter did not complete its work, and

Individualism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1065 words - 4 pages Individualism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Often in society people are criticized, punished and despised for their individual choices and flaws. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author uses Hester Prynne to symbolize that those who challenge social conformities can benefit society as a whole. Though she has been banished for committing adultery, she sees that the community needs her. Through her

Feminism in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

541 words - 2 pages B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott catalyzed the women’s rights movement. These prominent women believed that a woman’s role was no longer in the house and that women should be afforded the same opportunity as men. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sympathy for women is evident in a feminist reading of his novel The Scarlet Letter. The product of a sin, Hester’s daughter, Pearl, was deeply constructed by Hawthorne to be a strong willed, intelligent

Two Faces in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1359 words - 5 pages The Scarlet Letter:  Two Faces               "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally becoming bewildered as to which may be true”. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, this quote applies to the two main characters of the novel. It applies to Arthur Dimmesdale in a literal way; he clearly is not the man that he appears to be, and the guilt that goes along with

The Pillory in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

652 words - 3 pages The Scarlet Letter - The Pillory     The pillory stands tall as "the very ideal of ignominy" amongst the Puritans (52). Its method of discipline involves the convicted criminal standing upon a scaffold, in some cases with their heads confined, for the rest of the population to gaze upon with disdain. It is an outrage against common nature for the culprit to be forbidden to hide his face for shame. By definition, the term "ugly" means

Similar Essays

Sin And Punishment In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1671 words - 7 pages relaying themes in the novel. In the beginning she symbolizes the sin of her mother, as she grows she represents the honesty that the adults lack, and in the closing scene she symbolizes redemption. Pearl is first introduced in the novel as the infant Hester is clutching to her breast. Hester wears the scarlet letter and holds the baby, both the punishment for her adultery. Even as an infant Pearl is aware of the scarlet letter that her mother

Guilt As Reparation For Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

5479 words - 22 pages receives all of the blame for Hester’s guilt.      Most of the men versus society conflicts in the novel are the result of the Puritan beliefs and customs. Kaul writes, “The all-pervasive sense of sin is as important here [in The Scarlet Letter] as it was in the life and thought of the first Puritans'; (Kaul 10). The Puritans’ lives were focused on the discovery and punishment of sinners

Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

2142 words - 9 pages      Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment.  The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed             Dimmesdale's instantaneous response to the sin is to lie.  He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father's best interest for her to

Essay On The Greater Sin In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

797 words - 3 pages The Greater Sin in The Scarlet Letter   In essence, there were three main sins committed in The Scarlet Letter, the sins of Hester, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. Roger Chillingworth committed the greatest sin because he let himself be ruled by hatred and the consuming desire for vengeance.  The overpowering vengeance and hatred felt by Chillingworth caused his life to be centered on demeaning Dimmesdale and