Free College Essays - The Power of a Single Act of Iniquity in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

analytical Essay
1236 words
1236 words

The Scarlet Letter: The Power of a Single Act of Iniquity

The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with evil temptations. Some people were able to withstand these temptations; unfortunately, many others fell victim to the evil. A single act of iniquity was sufficient to devastate a person's life. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale were each destroyed mentally and physically by one diabolical act that mushroomed to overcome their lives.

Hester's life was the one which most externally displayed the destruction inflicted upon it by wrong-doing. Physically, she "stood on the scaffold of pillory, an infant on her arm, and the letter 'A' in scarlet, fantastically embroidered with gold thread upon her bosom" (The Scarlet Letter 66). Because of the "A", the entire community knew she had sinned, and she became a social outcast. In her attempts to pay penance for her sins, she lived a life of poverty, donating most of her income to charity. However, even the most lowly and wretched of the creatures in Boston, which she helped, "not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them" (87). Furthermore she left behind her beauty and elaborate dress for a dress of the "coarsest materials and the most sombre hue" (86).

Hester's sin also harmed her mind and soul. The joy she found in knitting, "like all other joys, she rejected it as a sin" (87). Also, she suffered each time she saw Dimmesdale. A mutual love remained between them, but they could not show the love. Even a brief encounter with Dimmesdale, the father of her daughter, would cause "a deeper throb of pain; for, in that brief interval, she had sinned anew" (89). Moreover, at one point, she had begun to lose faith in the fact that her daughter was human. She began to believe the sayings of townspeople who "had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring" (100). Hence her body and mind suffered greatly for her sin of adultery.

Roger Chillingworth's life was also destroyed by his evil. The most noticeable of his changes was the degradation of his physical appearance. When he was first seen in the novel, "there was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself and become manifest by unmistakable tokens" (67).

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how puritan new england's world was filled with evil temptations. in the scarlet letter, hester, chillingworth, and dimmesdale were each destroyed mentally and physically by one diabolical act.
  • Analyzes how hester's life was destroyed by wrong-doing. she lived a life of poverty, donating most of her income to charity, and lost faith in the fact that her daughter was human.
  • Describes how chillingworth realized that his life had become obsessed with evil. he told hester that he had grown to exist only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge.
  • Analyzes how dimmesdale held his sin within himself, using the justification that some sinners, retaining a zeal for god's glory, shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men.
  • Analyzes how chillingworth became a chief actor in the poor minister's interior world, making him suffer mental and physical agony. each of the primary characters in the scarlet letter failed to see the consequences of sin.
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