The Scarlet Letter: The Response To Sin

1890 words - 8 pages

We are all sinners. Although one may try hard not to sin, all humans eventually succumb at some time or another to sin. While people may not able to avoid the fate which awaits them, the power of free will allows people to decide how they will respond to sin. While some may respond with guilt and regret, others may react with a sense of redemption and a renewed sense of responsibility.

Nathanial Hawthorne, an American author during the 19th century witnessed the power of sin to wreak havoc not only to an individual but a whole community. His novel The Scarlet Letter expresses this very idea by exposing the follies of mankind and the potentially detrimental effects of sin trough Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth who all affected by sin in different ways. Utilizing powerful symbols and light/dark imagery, Hawthorne conveys to the readers, through these characters, the power of how one’s response to sin can positively change an individual or gradually destroy one by spreading like a contagious disease and ultimately consuming the victim.

Through Hester and the symbol of the scarlet letter, Hawthorne reveals how sin can be utilized to change a person for the better, in allowing for responsibility, forgiveness, and a renewed sense of pride. In a Puritan society that strongly condemns adultery one would expect Hester to leave society and never to return again, but that does not happen. Instead, Hester says, “Here…had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom.” Hester unlike the other characters takes full responsibility for her actions and is ready to accept her punishment. She realizes that to redeem herself she has to face the situation rather then escape from it. Readers can see how this desire to accept punishment results in a renewed sense of pride. Had Hester left Puritan society it would then suggest to the readers that the Puritans successfully enforced their punishment. Hester’s sense of pride however does not allow her to feel powerlessness against Puritan society. Even though the Puritans allow Hester to leave Boston and thus forget about the adultery, Hester’s decision to stay emphasizes how she has responded to sin with responsibility. Through her hard works to help not only herself but her community, it allows readers to see that although on the outside Hester is a sinner, inside she is a saint who seeks to help others in society.

Furthermore, readers are to see how acting with responsibility allows for forgiveness from others. The townspeople “[began] to look upon the scarlet letter as a token, not of that one sin, for which she had borne so long and dreary a penance, but of her many good deeds since.” This quote exemplifies how sin is not a death sentence...

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