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The Consequences Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter (Portrayed Through Hester, Chillingworth, And Dimmesdale.

1540 words - 6 pages

Scarlet Letter Literary PaperThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, written in 1850, is a product of the literary struggle between Classicism and Romanticism. Classicism is based upon writing in a traditional tone that involves no emotion, while Romanticism is the idea of letting emotion flow through literary outlets, such as a novel. This struggle is plainly embodied in the character of Hester Prynne, who must contain her passionate personality to the guidelines placed before her in a strict Puritan society. Within a Puritan society, committing a sin is viewed as the worst possible thing one could do and one must be punished accordingly for it. "In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne turned back to the age of his first American ancestor for a historical background against which to display a tragic drama of guilt--revealed and concealed, real and imagined--and its effects on those touched by the guilt" (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 3). Guilt is a strong after-effect of sin within The Scarlet Letter. The consequences and effects of sin are different to every person who commits one. The novel, The Scarlet Letter opens as the narrator states that Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale have committed adultery and that Hester has borne a child named Pearl. Hester is punished publicly for her sin of adultery by the placing of a scarlet letter on her breast and public humiliation, while Dimmesdale does not confess to the sin and is spared public scorning for it. Instead, Dimmesdale must seek inner redemption through physical beatings and praying, with little success. Hawthorne utilizes his novel to trace the less visible, long-range effects of a sin such as adultery, in the harsh setting of Puritan society through Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and Hester Prynne in order to illustrate how an obsession with vengeance or a devotion to atonement can destroy a person's spirit or personality. Through the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, Hawthorne shows that man can decrease his spiritual worth through his devotion to atonement. Reverend Dimmesdale originally sees himself as a holy, righteous man of the Lord, but quickly begins to rethink his position in the Puritan society after he commits the sin of adultery and then publicly denies it. Dimmesdale's view of his spiritual worth decreases when he notices that his actions have lead to Hester facing public ridicule through her punishment, "that she should stand a certain time upon the platform" (63). While Hester's punishment exposes her to embarrassment in front of the entire community, Dimmesdale's part in the sin is hidden from society to stew within his mind. The "platform of pillory" (62) that Hester is placed upon exposes her to the glaring eyes of Puritan society, leaving cowardly Dimmesdale to deny his part in the sin of adultery. Obvious to the Puritan society, Hester did not commit her sin alone, for she could not conceive a child without a male, but there is no way to expose...

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