Life Defined by a Single Moment in Scarlet Letter, Red Badge of Courage, and Crime and Punishment

Life Defined by a Single Moment in Scarlet Letter, Red Badge of Courage, and Crime and Punishment

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A Life Defined by a Single Moment in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment

Life can be changed by a decision made during a single moment. Despite the natural gifts of courage or intelligence of a person, a single mistake can isolate him from the rest of society. In one case this can be cause by public conception. The public believes that this person is morally inferior and singles out that person for ridicule. However, it can also be self-imposed isolation. Either way, that person cannot rejoin his society until he has redeemed himself.

In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, both kinds of moral isolation are examined. Hester Prynne is placed in the public's scorn for her adulterous act. The scarlet "A" that she is forced to wear as a penance ensures that no one, especially Hester herself, will forget what she did. Through the public's condemnation of her act, Hester eventually finds her salvation and purges herself of guilt. She becomes a stronger person because of this new understanding and gains the community's respect for her charity. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, does not face his sin publicly until ...

... middle of paper ... matter how intelligent or "extraordinary," can go their entire lives without making a bad decision. In order for them to return morally to the other members of their society, their redemption must contain certain factors. First, it is not necessary for a confession to be public unless the transgressor believes that it is a requirement for forgiveness. Then the person must believe that the redeeming act is equal to the mistake and that he is cleared of guilt. After he forgives himself, he is no longer morally isolated and returns to society whether or not the society has forgiven him.


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