English IV AP
Sin in The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850, in Salem Massachusetts. Some refer to the novel as a recollection of the story of Adam and Eve. Just as Adam and Eve were exiled for eating an apple from the Garden of Eden, Hester is exiled from the Puritan community (Kaul, 1986, p.13). Just as sin is a common theme in the story of Adam and Eve; sin is also a common theme in The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays the theme of sin through Pearl, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth’s varying representations of sin.
To begin, Pearl is the result of Hester’s sin. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester compares Pearl to the scarlet A when she states, “She is the scarlet letter only capable of being loved” (Sterling, 2008, p. 234). Hester goes further to state, Pearl is an “emblem and product of sin” (Sterling, 2008, p. 234). Pearl has wildness to her nature. She is referred to as an “airy sprite,” “little elf,” “spirit,” and “little laughing image of a fiend.” In the Puritan view nature represents wildness and wildness represents untamed passion, which in turn results in sin (Wagenknecht, 1998, p. 57). This natural wildness in her does not allow her to follow the rules. This connects her to the scarlet letter because it, like Pearl, represents the inability to follow the rules (Brodhead, 1986, 167). Some people think of Pearl as a demon child. She pretends to destroy the children of the Puritan elders. For example, Hawthorne states, “the ugliest weeds of the garden (she imagined were the elders’ children) whom Pearl smut down and uprooted most unmercifully” (Jago & Pasquantonio, 1997, p. 311). The sole connection of Pearl to a demon child shows that she is connected to sin. Overall, Pearl demonstrates the theme of sin because she is the physical result of Hester’s sin and because she acts in a manner which Puritans view as sinful.
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