Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

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   Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment.  The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed

            Dimmesdale's instantaneous response to the sin is to lie.  He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father's best interest for her to reveal the father's name (67).  Though he never actually says that he is not the other parent, he implies it by talking of the father in third person (67).  Such as, "If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer" (67).  Chillingworth's first reaction is one of shock, but he quickly suppresses it (61).  Since his first sight of his wife in two years is of her being punished for being unfaithful to him, he is naturally surprised.  It does not last for long though, because it is his nature to control his emotions (61).  Pearl's very existence in this scene is the largest immediate effect of her parents' crime (52).  She obviously would never had been there had her parents resisted their love for each other. The second scene occurs several years later and shows the effects after time has had a chance to play its part.  It begins with Dimmesdale climbing the stairs of the scaffold in the middle of the night because it is the closest that he can come to confessing his sin (152).  This scene is especially important because it shows how pitiful he has become.  Dimmesdale shows just how irrational he is when he screams aloud because he fear...


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...er, Matthew. "The Scarlet Letter and the Book of Esther: Scriptural Letter and Narrative Life." Studies in American Fiction (1995): 131-144.

 

Hawthorne, J. (1886, April). "The Scarlet Letter." The Atlantic Monthly [On-line], pp. 1-20. Available: http://wwww.theatlantic.com/unbound/classrev/scarlet.html

 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.

 

Kazin, Alfred. God and the American Writer. New York: Vintage, 1997.

 

Loring, G. B. (1850). "The Scarlet Letter and Transcendentalism." Massachusetts Quarterly Review [On-line], pp. 1-6. Available: http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/nh/loring.html

 

Reynolds, David S. Beneath the American Renaissance. Cambridge: Harvard, 1989.

 

Scharnhorst, Gary. The Critical Response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. New York: Greenwood, 1992.

 

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