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The Lasting Effect of Sin and Guilt on Hester and Dimmesdale

analytical Essay
1448 words
1448 words
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Without an honorable reputation a person is not worthy of respect from others in their society. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the struggle to shake off the past is an underlying theme throughout the novel. Characters in this novel go through their lives struggling with trying to cope with the guilt and shame associated with actions that lost them their honorable reputation. Particularly, Hawthorne shows the lasting effect that sin and guilt has on two of the main characters in the book: Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale.

Hester Prynne's guilt is the result of her committing adultery, which has a significant effect on her life. Hester is publicly seen with the scarlet letter when she first emerges out of the cold dark prison. "It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself" (49). The spell that is mentioned is the scarlet letter, "so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom" (49). The scarlet letter is what isolates her from everyone else because it symbolizes sin. Hester is in her very own sphere, where her sin affects her livelihood and has completely cut her off from the world. Her entrance into the sphere marks the beginning of her guilt and it occurs when she is in the prison after her first exposure to the crowd. The prison marks the beginning of a new life for Hester, a life full of guilt and seclusion. Her problem is that her shame is slowly surfacing while she faces the crowd realizing that she has been stripped of all her pride and everything that was important to her in the past. The lasting effect of Hester's sin is the shame that she now embodies due to her committing adultery. The shame that is ass...

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...is the guilt, which they are left with in the end. On the fateful day where the two committed adultery, they had no idea that this mistake would turn out to be like an ominous black cloud that they would never be able to escape from. When they chose to have Pearl, they unknowingly signed a contract that said they would have to suffer with their guilty conscience as a consequence for having Pearl. At the time, they did not think that they would feel much guilt, but when the word got out that Hester had a baby, everything changed. The mistake had been made and they would now be forced to live with it whether they liked it or not. In the end, Hester and Dimmesdale both sacrifice their peaceful lives to live with the guilt of giving birth to a child who should have never been born.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam, 1986.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how nathaniel hawthorne's novel, the scarlet letter, shows the lasting effect of sin and guilt on hester prynne and reverend dimmesdale.
  • Explains that hester prynne's guilt is the result of her committing adultery, which has a significant effect on her life.
  • Analyzes how hester's shame becomes very influential in her life, making her unable to express herself freely. she wants to take revenge on everyone that has passed judgment on her by giving them a disdainful smile.
  • Analyzes how hester's ultimate consequence of sin is her daughter pearl, who is a symbol of her sin. she is willing to go out into public and show her scarlet letter without shame even though she is still condemned.
  • Explains that although hester and reverend dimmesdale both committed the same sin, the lasting effect of sin is not external factors, but it originates and grows within him.
  • Analyzes how the confession of sin is an important aspect of reverend dimmesdale's life.
  • Analyzes how hester and dimmesdale sacrifice their peaceful lives to live with the guilt of giving birth to a child who should have never been born.
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