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The Concepts Of Morality And Sin In The Scarlet Letter

1250 words - 5 pages

The Concepts of Morality and Sin in the Scarlet Letter Many interpret The Scarlet Letter as a story based on love and passion. In his Criticism "The Scarlet Letter as a Love Story" Ernest Sandeen writes about the "erotic passion" and "courtly love" displayed in the novel, and he calls it "Hawthorne's own version of the traditional story of passion." It is clear that the Scarlet Letter includes passion and love, but are we missing the sin, isolation, reunion, and adultery that is clearly the basis of the story. This story is meant to teach something. It is not only a love story, but in fact a moral lesson. Each character has there own problems. In Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl the sin of adultery and its consequences are seen. But, beyond that lies the sins of hypocrisy, pride, revenge, and passion. The three matters which dominate the thoughts and actions of the characters are sin, isolation, and reunion. Generally speaking, with Hawthorne isolation is the result of sin, and the desire for reunion is usually the result of isolation. But it is a mistake to suppose that any one of these things can be interpreted successfully in a general sense. No one of them is constant in meaning throughout the story. There is, for example, no such thing as uniformity in the concept of sin. To assume this is to misinterpret the characters. Sin is the Scarlet Letter is a violation of only that which the sinner thinks he violates. To one character, adultery is going against Gods law, to another, no more than a violation of his own nature, to another it is going against the moral code of the community. To speak, therefore, even of adultery or hypocrisy is a violation of his own nature, to another, a sin against the moral code of the community."To speak, therefore, even of adultery or hypocrisy without discovering what they mean to each individual is to become hopelessly confused about what Hawthorne is doing.Furthermore, as the nature of the sin differs, so must the nature of isolation which is its result."( ) More than anything else, The Scarlet Letter is a study of isolation. And just as one cannot generalize about sin in the book, so it impossible to speak of isolation as though it were always one and the same thing. When a character feels isolated, he feels isolated from someone or something. Isolation, therefore, is a feeling of estrangement from those persons or elements whose code the individual feels that he has violated. "The study of isolation in The Scarlet Letter becomes a matter not only of comparing characters but also of ascertaining the successive degrees of estrangement within a single character." ( ) No one of the main characters comes into the story guiltless, except Pearl. Of the three, however, Hester has the misfortune of being the only one unable to hide her guilt, and so it is upon her that the penalties of the community fall. It is unnecessary to go into detail about her...

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