Analysis of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

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“He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil” (Thomas Fuller). Every human being who has lived has sinned. As such, sin cannot be judged or punished merely for the act. Rather, other considerations should be taken into account. Sin is a universal concept of imperfect behavior independent of religious affiliation and is practiced universally. The range of acts and thoughts covered by sin is vast; Hawthorne critically explores the strict, inflexible Puritanical approach to sin and its implication for individuals and society. Hawthorne investigates the intent behind sin in The Scarlet Letter using Dimmesdale and Chillingworth in order to criticize the Puritan Code and to demonstrate the ramifications intent can have on the sinner’s ability to earn forgiveness and gain redemption. Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s sin of adultery serves as the original plot device for the novel, and the interpretation and judgment of this sin develops continually. At the start of the novel, however, Dimmesdale’s role has not yet been revealed to the reader. Readers will come to the realization that he is Pearl’s father independently at different points, which Hawthorne does purposefully. By not immediately and explicitly stating Dimmesdale’s sin, it adds to the reader’s sense of immorality, especially upon reflection of Dimmesdale’s position in the community and his speech to Hester as she stands upon the scaffold. “I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him” (Hawthorne 65). The hypocrisy of the situation may cause readers to judge the reverend more harshly, leaving more room for contemplation of hi... ... middle of paper ... ...veness, a person must first acknowledge his sin and then make a thoughtful attempt to redeem himself. What makes sin terrible is rarely the act, but a refusal to recognize and redress the iniquity. Works Cited Bensick, Carol M. "Dimmesdale and His Bachelorhood: 'Priestly Celibacy' in The Scarlet Letter." Studies in American Fiction 21.1 (Spring 1993): 103-110. Rpt. in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Russel Whitaker. Vol. 158. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. Fuller, Thomas. The Holy and Profane States. Cambridge: Hilliard and Brown, 1831. 156. Google Books. Google. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. United States: Perma Bound Classics, 1988. Print.
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