Sin Of The Flesh In The Scarlet Letter

1304 words - 5 pages

The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a highly acclaimed work which centerpiece is the focus on the effects of sin in Puritan society. Hawthorne carried a heavy burden of truth hidden within the Puritan code, which has in turn created frenzy for his book since its publication in 1850. The age-old tale is of Hester Prynne a married woman in Boston, who is charged with adultery with an unknown partner. As punishment Hester must adorn a Scarlet A symbolizing her sin and shaping her existence. When one vigorously analyzes the overall theme of the novel, sin and its corollaries appear to be the main premise for the storyline. There exist little in The Scarlet Letter that cannot be traced back to the dark, debilitating, and destitute repercussions correlating with fleshly sin. Moreover, the effect of sin in The Scarlet Letter materializes through the evolution and individualization of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl.

 

In the Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne sin of adultery, alters her interaction with society and evolves her personality with ought destroying her inward spirit. Hawthorne portrays Hester as a strong-minded Puritan woman willing to ostracize herself inclusively from society with the adornment of the Scarlet A. Even though she understands she can easily share her humiliation with her partner in sin she bears the cross alone: "Never!" Replied Hester Prynne looking not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman [Dimmesdale] ... Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony as well as mine" (64; ch. 3). Furthermore, Hester's personality yet flourishes amidst her drab appearance and haughty symbol. The Scarlet Letter at first symbolizes Hester's seductive and sinful nature, but through her evolution of personality "Many people refuse to interpret the scarlet A by its original significance. They say that it means Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength (148; ch.13). Once Hester comes to grips with the implications of confessed sin she is "able" to revitalize her spirit and live as a woman proud of her fortitude and grounded by her substance. Hester's confessed sin does not destroy her inward spirit; instead she gathers strength and courage, and flourishes in spite of the symbol. In disparity, to Hester, Dimmesdale's un-confessed sin utterly destroys him physically and psychologically until he releases his surreptitious sin openly.

 

The effect of sin in the novel The Scarlet Letter is exemplified through Dimmesdale's overwhelming guilt, physical ailments, and untimely demise. Dimmesdale's costly punishment for his sin is mainly the guilt and self-condemnation that overwhelms him daily. Through the characterization of Dimmesdale the reader realizes that the guilt associated with un-confessed sin acts as a greater catalyst of pain than the humiliation of confessed sin. As the novel progresses, one finds...

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