Sin And Redemption In The Scarlet Letter

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne Pages: 4 (971 words) Published: December 11, 2015


In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes Puritan ideology to convey a philosophical reflection on sin and redemption. Adulteress Hester Prynne must wear a scarlet A to mark her shame, and while her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, remains unidentified and is wracked with guilt, her husband, Roger Chillingworth, seeks revenge. Although all three characters contemplate redemption, it is only Hester that chooses to confront her sin; Dimmesdale and Chillingworth refuse. This decision is heavily influenced by their respective morals. Hester’s morals of truth, forgiveness, and honesty allow her to be almost fully redeemed in the eyes of the public, whereas Dimmesdale's perverse loyalty to the morally corrupt society that hinders his love for...

Physically, his sin caused him to look like “an emaciated figure, his thin cheek, his white, heavy, pain-wrinkled brow” (149); he had become so physically pathetic from the guilt which tore at him internally. Dimmesdale’s method of repentance was much worse than Hester’s, both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, Dimmesdale was deeply torn over his moral responsibilities to himself and his responsibility to the community, ultimately refusing to confront his sin and redeem himself. Instead, he attempts to justify and convince himself that he is refusing to “display [himself] black and filthy in the view of men...because, thenceforward...no evil of the past be redeemed by better service” (91). Dimmesdale refuses to expose his secret in fear of losing the his role and respect in the Puritan community. He laments the relief that he has seen in “sinful brethren...who at last draw free air, after long stifling with his own polluted breath” (90), as he is both physically and emotionally pained by the stifling of his guilt. However, contradicting his own morals--based in the Puritan religion--and those that vest right action and right thought in Hester, Dimmesdale continues to suppress his guilt in an attempt to maintain his prestigious standing within the...

After years of hard work, Hester sheds the sinful notation of the scarlet A, instead:
The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, —so much power to do, and power to sympathize, —that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength (111).
Despite Hester’s sin, she had become known for ability to help others and her strength; the A now represents Able, not Adulteress. This illustrates the fact that Hawthorne believes that truth and embracing sin leads to freedom and forgiveness. Hester has an overall impact in her community despite of the symbol of shame that the letter is meant to represent, by regaining her communities admiration through her ability to be a productive member of the community and sympathize with others. Hester utilizes her “shame” to derive strength, pushing the notion of righteousness through the embracement of sin. Hester continues to participate in society, creating items such as gloves for religious activities, and through this, Hester regains the trust of the people. Hester’s morals of truth, honesty, and hard work are further justified as the righteous morals when it becomes apparent to the community that “none so ready as she to give her little substance to every demand of poverty” (110)....
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