The Scarlet Letter and a Tale of Two Cities: a Comparison

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The Scarlet Letter and A Tale of Two Cities: A Comparison

The ninth commandment tells man not to give false witness.(Exodus 20:16) Nathaniel Hawthorn and Charles Dickens in their novels The Scarlet Letter and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively, both use punishment for deception as a recurring theme. Although they do so to different degrees and in dissimilar manners, both authors agree that deception is a sin that requires punishment.

In The Scarlet Letter, the heroine, Hester Prynne conceived a child out of wedlock. Despite the pleas and demands of the clerical community, she did not reveal the identity of the father. The Puritanical community in which she lived in demanded her to give up her conspirator or bear the consequences of the deed alone. Due to her doggedness, the townsmen sentenced her to wear a scarlet letter *A* embroidered on her chest. The A served as a symbol of her crime, was a punishment of humiliation, gave her constant shame, and reminded her of her sin. Hester*s penalization was a prime example where deception led to negative consequences in that she would have been spared the entire encumbrance of the crime if she did not deceive the townspeople. Although seemingly, her paramour did not escape punishment.

In fact, the father of her bastard child took a more severe sentence. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale seemed to be an upstanding, young priest. The whole town liked him and respected him as a holy man. Thus, his deception was much more direct and extreme when he did not confess that he impregnated Hester Prynne. Unlike Hester, he was not publicly punished. So although Hester overcame her ordeal and went on with her life, Dimmesdale exacted a constant, physical and mental reprobation on himself. This inner pain was so intense that his physical health began to reflect his inner sufferings. In the end, he redeemed himself by his confession in front of the whole town, but his long endurance of the secret took its toll and he...
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