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Examines Sin's Effects On Various Characters In "The Scarlet Letter" And Evaluates Their Responses To It.

1220 words - 5 pages

Individuals resolve similar problem in different ways. In his novel, "The Scarlet Letter", Nathaniel Hawthorne explores this idea through the characters of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth and their reactions to sin. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth each have a unique response to sin: Hester acknowledges sin; Dimmesdale buries sin; Chillingworth avenges sin. Hester's response to her sin is the most successful, and she eventually overcomes her shame. Through his use of characterization, Hawthorne explores the effects of sin on various characters, suggesting that the most beneficial response to sin is truth.The actions of Hester Prynne throughout The Scarlet Letter are utilized by the author to examine the success of her response to sin. The novel begins with Hester being condemned by the community for her adulterous sin. The crowd gathers to "stare at the ignominious letter on her breast" and witness "the spectacle of guilt and shame of Hester Prynne's disgrace" (Hawthorne 55-56). The scaffold, which Hester is forced onto during her denunciation, is considered the ultimate manifestation of "ignominy" in Puritan society, and is where Hester is first exposed to the "guilt and shame" that she will be required to endure publicly as a result of her sin. When first subject to such humiliation, Hester is depicted as unable to face reality: "she clutched the child so fiercely to her breast...she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the shame were real" (Hawthorne 59). Hester is initially incapable of coping with her sin and is required to use the scarlet letter as evidence of its veracity. However, being forced to wear the scarlet letter on her bosom compels Hester to develop the ability to deal with the repercussions of her sin. Confronting her sin allows Hester to gradually redeem herself through charity work: "Hester Prynne did not now occupy...the same position in which we beheld her during the earlier periods of ignominy. Hester [was] so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted...that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able" (Hawthorne 166-167, 169). The change in Hester's reputation among her fellow Puritans suggests that wearing her sin openly provides Hester with the ability to surmount her guilt and move on. Hester's actions suggest that public confrontation of sin is the most successful response to sin.Through the characterization of Arthur Dimmesdale, Hawthorne implies that concealment, unlike truth or public confrontation, is a potentially dangerous reaction to sin. Reverend Wilson and the Governor call upon Dimmesdale to persuade Hester to confess the identity of her lover. He stipulates that Hester "'speak out the name of thy fellow sinner and fellow sufferer!'" (Hawthorne 67) Dimmesdale explains that though Hester may have good...

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