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Sin, Alienation, and Love in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter: The Themes of Sin, Alienation, and Love


The Puritans, a religious group in New England in the early 1600’s, interpreted the Bible form a fundamentalist perspective and strove to attain a sinless society.  Of course, people are human and sins are inevitable so the Puritans sinned and their perfect society was never achieved.   Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter develops the themes of sin, alienation, and love to provide valuable insights into the traditional beliefs of the Puritans and provide valuable and timeless moral insigts.

             Hester Prynne goes against the Puritan ways and commits the sinful act of adultery.  The townspeople often talk about Hester amongst themselves in the marketplace, “This woman has brought us shame”, for her sin brings them much grief (99).  For this irrevocably harsh sin the town magistrates sentence Hester to wear the scarlet letter ‘A’ as a constant reminder of her sin, and for all to recognize her as an adulteress. 

Pearl is the incarnation of her mother’s sin.  Pearl, her mother’s sole joy and at the same time a constant reminder of her sin, gives reference to Hester’s shameful badge.  Pearl was not conceived out of sin, but rather brought up amidst defying associations.  As a direct consequence of Hester’s sinful passions she conceives a child, Pearl.  Not an evil child in the true sense of the world, but in all actuality Pearl is a reflection of her parents’ love and immorality.  Further, Dimmesdale lacks the courage to confess his sin for he cares more for his social reputation as a man of God. It becomes apparent that “Some me...

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...s apparent in the novel.  Still important in today’s society, Hawthorne explores many ideas in The Scarlet Letter that frequently recur in other literary works.  This novel, set in the days of the Puritans, reveals a lot about their regulations, concepts, and toleration of immoral and unlawful acts.  Puritans have strict rules against the theater, religious music, sensuous poetry, frivolous dress, and many other things that the characters in this novel partake in.  The Scarlet Letter, a romance set 200 years before Hawthorne’s time, is a historical novel about Puritan Boston.  The Scarlet Letter thus becomes a discussion of historical events in which people break society’s rules and the outcomes of these events.  Viewing it in this light the novel describes Hester, a woman who let her heart rule over her head and suffers the consequences.

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