Sin and Forgiveness in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, Seven deadly sins Pages: 3 (954 words) Published: September 14, 2013
Sin and Forgiveness in The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne uses the theme of sin and forgiveness throughout The Scarlet Letter to portray the protagonists and antagonists of the story. Hawthorne uses comparative techniques through dark versus light, and nature versus civilization. With both of these he is giving underlying comparisons of sin and forgiveness. Hawthorne uses comparisons to show the reader that by having the inability to forgive, he/she is committing the sin of pride and is no better than the sinner who trespassed against him/her.

In The Scarlet Letter, sin determines a character’s mistakes. Forgiveness is what defines the characters, as they choose to either forgive or hold a grudge. For example, Chillingworth’s pride inhibits him from forgiving Dimmesdale, and he chooses to keep a grudge against him instead. Chillingworth’s choice of seeking revenge against Dimmesdale makes him an evil, corrupt man who is full of hatred. Hawthorne shows us here how by not being able to forgive, we might as well be committing a sin ourselves. For instance, “He [Chillingworth] could play upon him [Dimmesdale] as he chose. Would he arouse him with a throb of agony?” (134). Chillingworth chooses to devote his time to manipulating Dimmesdale’s health in an unhealthy way. In doing so Chillingworth becomes a sinister old man who commits sins that are worse than those committed by Dimmesdale. For example, “But what distinguished the physician’s ecstasy from Satan’s was the trait of wonder in it.” (132). Here Hawthorne compares Chillingworth to Satan, and in doing so wants the reader to envision Chillingworth as the character who possesses the most evil intentions. By holding a grudge against Dimmesdale, Chillingworth becomes the one who has the most sin in his heart.

Dimmesdale’s pride is not only the reason he continues to sin, but it is also the reason he cannot forgive Hester. For example, Dimmesdale hypocritically does not confess his sin for seven years after...
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