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Sins In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1894 words - 8 pages

“Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred” (Hawthorne). As this sentence is read in the The Scarlet Letter, the reader will realize that the main theme of the book is the sentence above. Throughout the book, secret sin damages the lives, soul, and the integrity of the main characters. However, it could have easily been evaded through open confession of their sins. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s purpose in writing this novel is an attempt to influence the reader to openly confess their sins and never be ashamed of who they are. According to Levine, “even though we convey ourselves as saints, we are really sinners (Levine 64). The Scarlet Letter is a classic work of Hawthorne due to the themes it portrays and the relevancy to today’s society. By definition, “A classic is a work of art so universal that it has transcended the boundaries of time and place; it has survived the ‘test of time’” (Lazarus). In the highly symbolic novel, “The Scarlet Letter”, Nathaniel Hawthorne explores the effects of hidden sin and his characters’ ultimate release from guilt when they learn to own their sin.
It all started when Nathanial Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804. One of his ancestors was a judge in the Salem witchcraft trials, so he added the letter “w” to his last name to make any relations ambiguous. “When he was a child, he took great interest in classical literatures of Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, John Buyon, Sir Walter Scott, and endless gothic romances”(Bloom 11). “He attended Bowdoin College in Maine where he joined the Athenean Literature Society and wrote many short stories” (Bloom 11). The time spent studying at Bowdoin College, greatly influenced his future career as a writer. His first published novel was, “Fanshawe”, which focused on his college years. Since he was embarrassed of his work, he later extracted the book from the shelves and destroyed every copy he found. After that, he published various works of literature but none of which “received popularity or critical attention” (Bloom 12). He continued to produce literary work but the success came when he introduced “The Scarlet Letter” (Bloom 13). It brought him both financial and critical success when it was published in 1850, and paved the way for more monumental novels (Bloom 13).
Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter in an era commonly referred to as “The Transcendentalist Movement” (“The Scarlet Letter”). “Transcendentalism a reaction against the rationalism of the previous century and the religious orthodoxy of Calvinist New England, it stressed the romantic tenets of mysticism, idealism, and individualism” (“The Scarlet Letter”). It sees God as an important part of a person and the world, God was not a “harsh distant figure” (“The Scarlet Letter”). Simultaneously, Puritan values and ideas also played a major role in shaping The Scarlet Letter. “The Puritans are all alike and, taking themselves for the standard, see...

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