Abraham Lincoln, one of the most revered presidents of our country, once expressed “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” Throughout history, many men have tried to teach their people by punishment. From the times of ancient Egypt, to the Dark Ages of Europe, even up to the times of colonial America, persecution, humiliation, and torture have been used to enforce the principles of righteousness. But God has seemingly different ideas. From the very beginning, God has been teaching his children on Earth by showing them mercy instead of giving them misery. This theme is exemplified in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter as Hester and Dimmesdale suffer through their various forms of punishment. Hawthorne frequently uses the forest and Pearl as symbols, proving his message that God’s laws, or nature’s laws, are more merciful than man’s.
The symbol of the forest represents the acceptance of sinners that exists away from society, which definitely supports the theme of the novel. While in the forest, both Hester and Dimmesdale feel like they can be free from their transgressions, even if only for a moment. When the two sit by the brook alone, Hester tells Dimmesdale that “[he has] deeply and surely repented. [His] sin is left behind [him], in the days long past” (188). Hester realizes that, contrary to the Puritans’ beliefs, people can be forgiven by God here on Earth. Dimmesdale has suffered greatly, and through his suffering, he is cleansed. Hester receives the same gift of forgiveness from God through her suffering. God shows her this when, “with the sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obs...
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...f his consequences; however, his growth has been limited because man was his teacher. Hester, on the other hand, has had a change of heart, and an increase in wisdom because she was taught by the merciful judgements of God.
Hawthorne, throughout his novel, shows the reader that the lonely realms of nature, and the elf-child, Pearl, are proof of God’s endless mercy. God never pushes his children, never laughs at his little ones, and never tries to pull his priceless posterity down into a pit of suffering and despair. In the presence of God, it is clear that he cares for who we become after we learn from our mistakes. Many societies will try to enforce judgement and cruelty as consequence of others’ actions; but, this will never truly correct these people. As Abraham Lincoln wisely implied, mercy will always be a better teacher than the judgements of man.
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