The Effects of Sin in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Essay

The Effects of Sin in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Sin has been present since the beginning of time and will forever remain. As each era has passed, people have had different views on how sin should be recognized and punished. In the Puritan times, sin was usually punishable by death. Therefore, some sins were purposefully hidden. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale becomes a victim to his own concealed sin. Dimmesdale is a partner in adultery with Hester Prynne, the wearer of the scarlet letter. He is living a lie, and it is tearing his guilty soul apart. Another character with secrets and sins of his own is Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth’s hidden sin is revenge, and it captures his whole purpose in life. It is obvious that both of these men have secret sins, but how do these hidden transgressions affect their lives? While Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth are both sinful, they are each affected differently by their sins -physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Dimmesdale is living a lie, but he constantly feels guilty over his sin. In fact, he feels so contrite over his sin that he is physically damaged. He tortures himself with a whip, keeps long vigils of wakefulness at night, and starves himself until his knees are trembling. Because of the stress he his continually putting on his body, he becomes physically ill. Another way his iniquity affects him physically is the habit of placing his hand over his heart in pain, the same place where the scarlet letter is on Hester Prynne. Emotionally, as the years pass by, he begins to hate himself and consider himself to be the worst sinner of all civilization; as he said himself, “behold me here, the one sinner of the world.” His constant focus on his sin drives himself t...


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...aged to try and find Hester’s partner and torture this man’s emotions for revenge. Their sin becomes the only thing these men think about, consuming them to the point that nothing else is important, and eventually takes their lives. For Dimmesdale, his guilty conscience and self-abuse are the causes of his untimely death. For Chillingworth, his obsessive revenge becomes permanently engraved into his being and when the cause for his vengeance dies he dies soon afterward. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are both wretched sinners with transgressions that have different effects - physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is obvious that both men are affected drastically by their wrongdoings and in the end pay with their lives.



Work Cited


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Scarlet Letter." Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. New York: Norton, 2007.

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