Theme Of Religious Hypocrisy In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s family background greatly influences the themes and central conflicts within many of his works. Growing up, Hawthorne learned of his ancestors’ lifestyle and their devotion to the Puritan religion. The constricting and harsh values of the religion troubled Hawthorne, and his guilt for his ancestors’ way of life translates into his literature. Hawthorne’s use of the theme of religious hypocrisy impacts the characterization and in turn the plot of many of his works, including The Scarlet Letter, The Minister’s Black Veil, and Young Goodman Brown. Religious hypocrisy in The Scarlet Letter influences the characterization of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth throughout the novel. Prior to Hester and Dimmesdale’s affair, it is fair to assume that a majority of the town possesses somewhat accurate character portrayals of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. Hester is seen as a normal citizen because there are no…show more content…
Throughout his work, Hawthorne “target[s] the religious leader of the groups for abusing their spiritual role” (Graham 58). Higher religious authorities appoint Hooper to serve as a role model for his townspeople, exemplifying the qualities of devotion and self-control. However, he acts based on his emotions and has an affair with a young girl from the town. The minster subjects himself to a black veil for the rest of his life, and “though it covers only [his] face, [the back veil] throws its influence over his whole person” (Hawthorne 638). The minister’s situation is hypocritical because he clearly recognizes his mistakes but still sees himself fit to enforce the ideals of religious purity onto the townspeople. Using the black veil to vaguely acknowledging his sins, the minister tells others that they have no reason or moral right to sin as he