Greatest Sinner in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Greatest Sinner in The Scarlet Letter

Mankind is prone to some degree of sin. A question that has always plagued mankind is how one can achieve redemption from sin. Any sin becomes compounded when the perpetrator does not take responsibility for it. In the book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, perhaps the greatest sinner was Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale.

Many of Hawthorne's works center around what is right or wrong, and the consequences of breaking the basic links between humans by committing acts of sin (Brown). In this book, Reverend Dimmesdale is Hester Prynne's secret lover, with whom he shares his sin, the sin of adultery. It is ironic that dispite Dimmesdale's profession, he commits this sin. For a great amount of time in this book, author Nathaniel Hawthorne shows how this sin is frowned upon by many of the townspeople.

Arthur Dimmesdale is an eminent minister in Boston and also the father of Pearl. He is a tortured man who constantly places his hand over his heart when agitated. His health is quite bad, and it is thanks to Roger Chillingworth's potions that he is able to stay alive. Dimmesdale admits to being Pearl's father at the very end of the novel, and reveals that he has a scarlet letter branded into his flesh. He dies upon the scaffold while holding Hester's hand.

For seven long years, Mr. Dimmesdale lacks the courage to admit his guilt publicly, which puts a tight clamp on his conscience and soul. His sin is prolonged inside of him, festering in every corner of his body and plaguing in his mind.

While Hester is standing on the scaffold with Pearl bearing the scarlet letter on her chest letting everyone know of her sin, she refuses to let the crow...

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...the Puritans had long ago. Sin is a constant in society, and that perhaps will never change. A sin can only become deeper if the perpetrator spends a great deal of his or her own life concealing it, keeping it bottled up inside, until one is ready to burst.

Works Consulted

Brown, Bryan D. "Reexamining Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. http://www.usinternet.com/users/bdbournellonie.htm. March 1, 2000.

"Characters". http//:www.std.enmu.edu/arthurpi/arthur.html. February 15, 2000.

"Chuck III College Resources". http://www.chuckiii.com/reports/book_reports/scarlet_letter.shtml. March 1, 2000.

Nicholas J. "Classic Notes: Acknowledgment of Sources for the Summaries and Analysis: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne". http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/thescarletletter/fullsumm.html. February 15, 2000.
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