The Effects Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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For many people, a sin of significant magnitude is a burden that may live with them for the rest of their lives. The effects of this sin can manifest in many ways, be it mentally, physically, or spiritually. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth are all living with an enormous burden of sin, each reflecting their inner torture caused by this sin differently. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne conveys the effects of sin on each character through Hester’s ostracism from society, both physically and emotionally due to her sin of adultery, through Dimmesdale’s sickness and self- inflicted suffering due to his sin of hypocrisy, and through Chillingworth’s transformation into someone evil and adamant on causing pain to…show more content…
After Hester emerges from the dungeon holding her child in her arms, her breast is adorned with a scarlet letter “A”, for “adulterer”. Regarding her status in her community, Hawthorne states, “Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin” (66-67). Hester’s adultery causes her to becomes a “living sermon against sin” (54), in the eyes of the Puritans. She is rejected from society both physically, being forced to live on the outskirts of town, and emotionally, as she feels like an outcast, no longer welcome in society. Nevertheless, through the power of her own spirit, Hester transmutes the meaning of the letter from ignominy to strength. Hester proved herself to be a beacon of human tenderness and sympathy in her town, which is evident when Hawthorne explains, “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength”…show more content…
After Chillingworth returns subsequent to being gone for 2 years, he finds Hester upon the scaffold, holding another man’s baby in her arms. Since Hester won 't reveal who the father is, Chillingworth is left to find out for himself, and once he discovers Dimmesdale is at fault, makes it his mission to exact revenge on him. He pursues this with the technique of a scientist and his motives and techniques are explained when Hawthorne says, "Few secrets can escape an investigator, who has opportunity and license to undertake such a quest, and skill to follow it up¨ (103). He cold- heartedly pursues Dimmesdale because he knows he has the skills and the wit to enact his revenge in such a way that will truly devastate Dimmesdale. By the time Chillingworth and Hester meet in the forest, he radiated evil, as if "the old man 's soul were on fire, and kept on smoldering duskily within his breast¨ (140). By spending all of his time imposing his revenge on Dimmesdale, the malicious spirit of his deed transformed him into a pawn of the devil, his only reason for living to carry out his revenge. Chillingworth has reached the point that his very existence depends on Dimmesdale, and when Dimmesdale dies Hawthorne describes his downfall, ¨All his strength and energy—all his vital and intellectual force—seemed at once to desert him; insomuch that he
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