Original Sin in the Scarlet Letter

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Abstract: Nathaniel Hawthorne, a writer of American literature in 19th century, was influenced by Puritanism. He was haunted by his sense of evil and sin in his whole life. In his works, he saw the cruel ruling of Puritanism through his puritan view and showed his dissatisfaction towards it. To analyze through symbolism in his famous work of "The Scarlet Letter", we can see the important theme of Original sin and the redemption of humanity.

Key words: Puritanism, original sin, redemption

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne's life:
1.1 Nathaniel Hawthorne's background:
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great romanticist of American literature in 19th century, was born on the 4th of July 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. He was a descendant of Puritan immigrants. One of his ancestors was a colonial magistrate, notorious for his part in the persecution of the Quaker, and another ancestor was a judge on the Salem witchcraft. His father died on a voyage in Surinam, when the young Nathaniel was four. But maternal relatives recognized his literary talent and financed his education at Bowdoin College in Maine. Between the year 1825 and 1836, Hawthorne worked as a writer and contributor to periodicals. Insufficient earnings as a writer forced Hawthorne to take a job in the Salem Custom House. In 1850, with the publication of the Scarlet Letter, in Nathaniel Hawthorne became famous as the greatest writer living then, his reputation as a major American author has been on the increase ever since. Living in the period of optimistic transcendentalism, to compare with other peer writers, he was pessimistic and paid more attention to the dark side of people. We can take Ralph Waldo Emerson as an example, the difference between Hawthorne and Emerson is that Hawthorne saw things through the views of social people rather then those of natural people. His conclusions were completely different from Emerson who was one of the leading figures of New England Transcendentalism. To Hawthorne, we can't deny the existence of sins. All of Hawthorne's works can reflect the influence of Puritanism to him. During his whole life, he was thinking about "sins" of human beings. He seems to be haunted by his sense of sin and evil in life. Reading his tales and romances, one cannot but be overwhelmed by the "black" vision which these works reveal. Calvinism gave him energy to take effort to describe total depravity and original sin in the world. There is no one who can get rid of this deep influence in any kinds of forms completely as long as he lives in this kind of circumstance. Hawthorne thought all evils in the world came from original sins of human nature, which can better explain the unreasonable phenomena in the society. He believed that sins were everywhere; every one was sinful and sins did not only fill in the outer circumstance, but also deep inside of people's hearts which were spots of our spirits and souls. In his point of view, all the social problems were caused by "sins" inherent in human beings. As a writer who cared the most about the moral and society, he used his own ways to expose the total depravity and darkness in humans' spirits and souls. With the description of facing the existence of sins, he didn't give us a way to the world without sins but a special way of redemption of humanity to release ourselves from the feeling of guilty and finally reach the purpose of changing our hearts and building a better society. 1.2 Nathaniel Hawthorne's ideas and works

Nathaniel Hawthorne's character and personality have something to do with his experience in his childhood. His father died when he was still young, so he was living in a Puritanism life with his mother and two sisters in church under the depressing condition. It made him proud, aloof and doubtful during his whole lifetime, so he got used to staying alone, pondering and holding a doubtful and critical attitude towards everything. To some extent, he was a viewer instead of a participant all...
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