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Hawthorne Essay

1244 words - 5 pages

Sin - (Noun) - Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong. The subject of sin is one that Nathaniel Hawthorne explores in many of his works in great detail. The great American novelist portrays sin as a trait that can be forgiven in certain cases. The way in which Hawthorne portrays certain characters indicates how pardonable the characters' transgressions have been. This can be seen in many of his works, including The Scarlet Letter, and "The Birthmark." Within these works, Hawthorne describes some characters, such as Dimmesdale and Aylmer, as dark and guilty of their sins which he believes to be of a more severe nature. Other characters, such as Hester, are described in a compassionate manner, thus implying that her sin is excusable. This would lead one to believe that Hawthorne is sympathetic to some characters who have committed less severe sins. Hawthorne's harshness towards some sinners as well as his sympathetic portrayal for other sinners may come from his background. His grandfather, Judge Hathorne, helped convict innocent people during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Hawthorne believes that his grandfather sinned greatly. He was so ashamed of this act , that he went as far as to change his last name to Hawthorne to dissociate from him. He could not condone the fact that his grandfather, a judge, did not maintain the high moral standards Hawthorne felt he should have. This is why he portrays Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter as "...the greater sufferer" (Lynn 171). He, like Hawthorne's grandfather, is a respectful figure in the society. This figure should be the one that everyone looks up to, and should commit no sin. Dimmesdale, in committing adultery, "has failed to maintain the integrity of his character.... He cannot bear to think that he wears a disguise, that he cannot be the open, frank, stainless character he had from his youth aspired to be..." (Lynn 164). He has failed to be the role model that he hoped he would be. Hawthorne sees his sin to be hypocrisy. He is living a life of a respectable man of God, but in fact, he is a man of sin. Although, he is a minister and every week gets up on his pulpit to hear his congregation's sins, Dimmesdale is too weak to confess his own sin. As a result of his hiding his sin from the congregation, and all of society, he is adding hypocrisy to his sin. Therefore, Hawthorne portrayed Dimmesdale in a very dark and gloomy manner throughout the work. Hawthorne suggests that his sin of hypocrisy in addition to the sin of adultery is a more significant sin than others and cannot be forgiven. His sense of guilt may be exemplified when Hawthorne states "...his large dark eyes had a world of pain in their troubled and melancholy depth" (Lynn 62).Dimmesdale may be seen to be "...falling into a life of utter falsehood." (Unger 239).Thus it can be seen that Hawthorne portrays Dimmesdale's sin as hypocrisy as a result of his...

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