The Sin of The Scarlet Letter

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Hester Prynne's adulterous affair in The Scarlet Letter has made the book a controversy since its publication. Many conservative critics have challenged its morality and its effects on literature. A year after the book was published, Reverend Arthur Coxe, a church pastor who believes that the book degrades our literature, strongly criticizes how the author depicts sin in a sympathetic, positive light. Although I accept his statements that the book sympathizes with Hester and her sin, I also believe The Scarlet Letter denounces sin by exploring the struggles and hardships that both Hester and Dimmesdale have to confront throughout the novel.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne tells the story of Hester Prynne, who struggles because of the public denunciations that she faces for committing the sin of having an extramarital affair. As the story progresses, the perception of her sin grows less severe, until the symbol that represents her sin no longer carries its immoral meaning. The townspeople “[refuse] to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification...it meant Able; so strong was Hester [Prynne’s] strength” (Hawthorne 148). Therefore, Coxe’s point is valid when he argues that Hawthorne shines a positive light upon her iniquity, which is reflected in his argument that in The Scarlet Letter, “the whole tendency of the conversation is to suggest sympathy for their sin” (2).
Although the readers sympathize with the characters, it is because Hester and Dimmesdale are suffering for their sin and not “wallowing in their filth” (Coxe 2). Coxe states that Hawthorne “[creates] unavoidable sympathy with unrepenting sorrow, and deliberate, premeditated sin” (2). However, I believe that Coxe is mistaken because he overlooks the fact that both Hester and Dimmesdale have to bear their sins throughout the whole novel. Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hester is mistreated and discriminated because of her sin, which is distinguished by a bright red letter on her bosom. She has to confront the whispers, the criticism,...

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