Guilt In The Scarlet Letter And The Crucible Essay example

Guilt In The Scarlet Letter And The Crucible Essay example

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The presence of guilt has been felt by all human beings. As guilt grows in a

person’s life it eventually begins to have a deteriorating effect on the individual. In both

The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible more than one of the characters are experiencing

some form of guilt and the effects of the public’s opinion on their own personal sins.

Each character’s guilt originates from a different personal problem and with each

character’s guilt comes a different reaction. Miller and Hawthorne use the source of

guilt, the actions resulting from it and the eventual consequences to portray the

concept of a guilty conscience to the reader.     


     Each character’s guilt originates from a different source. Through different

characters, Hawthorne and Miller display guilt and it’s source to the reader. In both The

Scarlet Letter and The Crucible the use of relationships between a man and a woman are

used as a primary source of guilt. Hawthorne uses Dimmesdale and Hester, and Miller

uses Proctor and Elizabeth. The men in both cases are experiencing guilt involving

mistakes made sexually. Dimmesdale, who is a highly respected priest has a sinful

relationship with a married woman, and Proctor, a married man, falls for a young girl and

commits adultery. With Dimmesdale, his guilt stems from the concealment of his sin. He

watches Hester as she confesses and for seven years he agonizes over it, while he still

remains innocent in the eyes of all. However with Proctor, he confesses to his wife right

away. In an argument with his wife he says, “’ I should have roared you down when you

first told me of your suspicion. But I wilted, and like a Christian, I confessed!”’(55). The

guilt that Proctor feels comes, not from a secret that he is keeping, but from “’The

magistrate that sits in his heart”’(55), as Elizabeth puts it. With the women in these

relationships, their guilt has a less drastic origin. Elizabeth knows that she has not

committed any sin that can compare to her husband’s, but she admits that “’it needs a

cold wife to prompt lechery”’ (137). Even though John has committed the ultimate sin


... middle of paper ...

...t that he was experiencing can be seen in two

different lights. It eventually brought him to confession in the court, and the tarnishing

of his good name. However, his confession was strictly to protect his wife, so his guilt

could be seen also as a final reconciliation between Proctor and Elizabeth. Guilt has the

capability of doing permanent damage to a person, and in both novels, the authors use

guilt as a very negative force in a person’s life.

     In The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible, guilt is portrayed in similar ways. Both

authors use the concept of guilt to imply the idea that guilt has the capabilities to

produce reactions in people that in most situations aren’t the same. The result of a

guilty conscience can be used as a positive or negative force in a person’s life and

through the characters in both novels, this idea is made apparent. The cause of guilt,

the reactions to the guilt, and the consequences resulting from the guilt are all used by

Hawthorne and Miller to show the contrasting ways of handling personal guilt in a

person’s life.

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