Sin, Punishment and Redemption in The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a book about sin, punishment, and the hope of redemption. The book is about the life in colonial Boston of Hester Prynne, Her husband Roger Chillingworth, and Hester’s lover Arthur Dimmesdale. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a very complex and can be interpreted in many ways. Throughout the novel the Concept of sin, punishment, and redemption was portrayed through Hester Prynne, Aurthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth on many ways and on many levels.
An element of this theme is sin. The whole bases of the novel are on the sin of Hester and Dimmesdale committed. The sin of adultery had great consequences and haunted both of them until the day they died. In the time this novel was written adultery should have been condemned with murder, but some of the town’s people took pity on Hester because no one knew what happened to her husband. Although the women of the town did not agree with the decision. In this novel, Chillingworth is considered as worst sinner. In the case of The Scarlet Letter the wrong, or sin, is adultery: a very serious breach of Christian morality. A young woman, Hester Prynne, has been found guilty of adultery and must wear a scarlet letter “A” on her dress as a sign of shame. Furthermore, she must stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation. Hester's punishment is purely social. She has to stand on the platform of the pillory, with the people gazing curiously at the scarlet letter on her breast. Society has decreed that she shall wear throughout her life a scarlet letter on the boson of her gown. This is the stigma that Hester has to carry always. She becomes a social outcast. Children follow her and shout at her. Strangers gaze at the scarlet on her bosom and make no secret of their contempt for her. She is cruelly treated by society. Her numerous acts of service as a Sister of Mercy do soften the world to some extent, but do not secure her its pardon. Society continues to be firm and harsh. Any other woman in place of Hester would have been won over to the side of the Devil or the Black Man. But the inherent goodness of Hester and her maternal solicitude for Pearl keep her away from any further evil. Crime and penalty are dealt here both on personal and social level. The act of adultery is a crime against the individual, that individual being the wrong husband or wife. But adultery is also a crime against society. Hester Prynne has by her adulterous action, wronged her husband Chillingworth and that is what she tells him in so many words. The wrong that she has done to her husband is a crime to a personal level. But as a member so society she is also a sinner. Hester herself does not consider her adulterous action to be a serious crime or sin. For the reason, she does not experience any deep sense of guilt even after society has pronounced his judgment upon her. Hester believes in the sanctity of love relationship between her and Dimmesdale. The scarlet letter ‘A' is the stigma that Hester has to carry always for her misdeed. Children follow her and shout at her. She is cruelly treated by the society. But the inherent goodness of Hester and her maternal solitude to Pearl keep her from further evil. Her crime is the serious one and her punishment is great. But it must be pointed out that the punishment comes from the society and is unaccompanied by any pangs of the society. Hester believes in the sanctity of the love relationship between her and Dimmesdale. "What we did", she says to Dimmesdale in the forest, "Had a consecration of its own. We felt it so; we said so; we said so to each other." Dimmesdale produces an impression of weakness and timidity. He aggravates his sin of adultery by his prolonged concealment of it and he further aggravates it by trying to keep up an appearance of piety. As the novel is primarily a story of fall of a great priest, we can easily defy Dimmesdale as...
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