Cowardice and Redemption as Seen in the Scarlet Letter

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Both the Bible and Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, redemption from sin is a prominent theme. Hawthorne and the Bible recognize that sin is inevitable - humans, as a part of life, sin. However, it is accepting and growing from these sins that allow peace of mind. The experience of Arthur Dimmesdale parallels that of the Bible's story of King David and Bathsheba and demonstrates that sin is a natural, unavoidable part of human life, but having committed a sin without confession leads to a life of internal turmoil and guilt.

Hawthorne pushes the parallel between Dimmesdale's experience and the scriptural story of David and Bathsheba with the description of the tapestries decorating Dimmesdale's study (112). In doing so, he gives Dimmesdale a larger-than-life role. Dimmesdale is no longer just a deceitful minister in a little New England town, but he embodies the meaning of dishonesty in sin. He struggles with pride and cowardice, but mostly with truth. He cannot bring himself to confess the truth. Hawthorne uses Pearl to show the necessity of sin in healthy human life. Coyly innocent, Pearl states that the sun will not shine on her mother because of the badge of sin that her mother wears, but that the sunlight still loves Pearl because she does not yet have her own sinful marker. Her mother, rightfully protective, says that she hopes Pearl will never have to bear a burden like the scarlet letter she carries. ‘"And why not, mother?" asked Pearl… "Will not it come of its own accord when I am a woman grown?"' (166). Intuitively, Pearl makes the assumption that sin is natural, and that all people encounter it in their journey to and during adulthood, an assumption directly countering the ideals of the puritan society that condemns her mother and herself. Hawthorne's use of Pearl to convey this message is extremely important. Pearl is a child born in passion, living in the forest away from societal norms. She embraces all things natural and...
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