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The Scarlet Letter Essay

1679 words - 7 pages

As Elbert Hubbard said “We are not punished for our sins, but by them.” In the eyes of Puritans, submitting to decadence is known to be heretical and should be dealt with great punishment. As shown in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, punishment for committing adultery, one of the most horrendous sins, is to wear the letter “A”, which stands for adultery. Hester Prynne, the bearer of this brand, is forced to wear this letter for the rest of her life. However, throughout the book, we are shown how Hester Prynne goes on her path of penitence in order to redeem her name and soul. But, in the case of Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s illicit partner, does not openly admit to his sin and instead, hides away his secret. Throughout the events of The Scarlet Letter, we are shown that the steps that Hester takes along the path of penitence are authentic, while the steps that Dimmesdale takes to deal with his original sin of adultery, and the compounded sin of hypocrisy, are inauthentic.
In The Scarlet Letter, readers are admitted to the fact that Hester Prynne is the epitome of good and strength. Rather than hiding in shame, Hester Prynne openly admits that she committed adultery so she could repent for her sins. In Chapter 2, when Hester exits the prison, the narrator states “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread appeared the letter “A.” …” (46) This quote shows how well done Hester’s brand is, containing an eye-catching beauty that makes it the center of attention. Although the public believes that Hester did this to mock the magistrates, Hester did this for a different reason. Hester made her brand so eye-catching because she is not afraid to show she committed her sin. Hester believes that in order to repent, she must show the world she is not afraid to show it, and will not hide it under her clothes. It is also shown in Chapter 5, when Hester’s prison term ends, the narrator states “ In this little, lonesome dwelling, with some slender means that she possessed, and by the license of the magistrates, who still kept an inquisitorial watch over her, Hester established herself...” (69) This quote shows that instead of leaving Boston, Hester instead stays in a small cottage on the outskirts of town. Although Hester is required to wear the scarlet letter, Hester is not forbidden to leave Boston. But, Hester instead chooses to keep living in Boston, showing that she wants to repent by staying in the original location where she committed her sin. By staying in Boston and flourishing her brand around, Hester took her first step on her path of penitence. In Hester’s path of penitence, Hester is also shown to help the needy despite the public’s opinion of her. In Chapter 13, when it has been years since Hester’s judgment, the narrator states “None so ready as she to give of her little substance to every demand of poverty; even though the bitter hearted pauper threw...

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