The Scarlet Letter: The Response to Sin Essay

The Scarlet Letter: The Response to Sin Essay

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We are all sinners. Although one may try hard not to sin, all humans eventually succumb at some time or another to sin. While people may not able to avoid the fate which awaits them, the power of free will allows people to decide how they will respond to sin. While some may respond with guilt and regret, others may react with a sense of redemption and a renewed sense of responsibility.

Nathanial Hawthorne, an American author during the 19th century witnessed the power of sin to wreak havoc not only to an individual but a whole community. His novel The Scarlet Letter expresses this very idea by exposing the follies of mankind and the potentially detrimental effects of sin trough Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth who all affected by sin in different ways. Utilizing powerful symbols and light/dark imagery, Hawthorne conveys to the readers, through these characters, the power of how one’s response to sin can positively change an individual or gradually destroy one by spreading like a contagious disease and ultimately consuming the victim.

Through Hester and the symbol of the scarlet letter, Hawthorne reveals how sin can be utilized to change a person for the better, in allowing for responsibility, forgiveness, and a renewed sense of pride. In a Puritan society that strongly condemns adultery one would expect Hester to leave society and never to return again, but that does not happen. Instead, Hester says, “Here…had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom.” Hes...


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...to portray through Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, that without responsibility for wrongful deeds our world will eventually be destroyed just like these two individuals. However, Hawthorne, through the portrayal of Hester, shows that he has not given up on humanity. If our world is going to survive for future generations it has to model itself after Hester’s behavior. Yes, sin is inevitable but we must learn to respond to it with responsibility, forgiveness, and redemption rather than with guilt, revenge, and uncertainty. More importantly we must learn to remain honest and truthful in whatever action we carry out because in the end only God will have the power to grant us the ultimate forgiveness by saving us or damning us to Hell.

Work Cited


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Scarlet Letter." Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. New York: Norton, 1987.

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