Scarlet Letter

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Tajbik Sheikh

The Scarlet Letter Intro
In the 16th century, Puritans immigrated to America from Great Britain in order to escape religious persecution, and by the mid 17th century they had erected a well established society based on their theological beliefs. The Puritan religion was one of austerity and geared towards spiritual devotion rather than worldly possessions. Puritans followed rigid laws which rarely changed with time. They also had little tolerance for anyone who broke these laws. Individuals who did violate these laws however, faced punishment on various levels and would have to prove their repentance to themselves and society. The Scarlet Letter, set in mid 17th century Boston, portrays such forms of repentance from two perspectives. The author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, constructs the plot to revolve around the journey of repentance of two characters: Hester Prynne and Rev. Dimmesdale. Both characters have committed the blasphemous sin of adultery together, but only Hester has been punished for it, whereas Dimmesdale has yet to be discovered for his involvement in the misdeed. Hester’s severe punishment is to carry the eternal burden of the scarlet letter A, a symbol that apprises everyone of her status as an adulterer, and outcasts her from the rest of society. Even though she is shunned by society, Hester still manages to perpetrate acts of penance to atone for her sin. However, Hester is not the only character who seeks repentance; Rev. Dimmesdale self-inflicts punishment as a form of penance. Throughout the novel, both characters strive to achieve true repentance, a feeling of remorse which comes from the soul. As committed as they are to atoning for their sin, neither Hester nor Dimmesdale truly ever reach the state of repentance. Their failure to achieve true repentance can be perceived through their similar goals of penitence and their different forms of punishment.

Through the course of the novel, Hawthorne constantly evinces parallels...
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