Sin and Redemption:
The Transformations of Prynne, Chillingsworth, and Dimmesdale
In “The Scarlet Letter,” Hawthorne presents the consequences of sin as an important aspect in the lives of Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingsworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale. The sin committed, adultery, between Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale had resulted in the birth of their innocent little girl, Pearl. This sin ruined the three main characters’ lives completely in different ways. With the sin committed, there were different ways the characters reacted to it: embracing the sin, concealing the sin, and becoming obsessed and consumed with it. With each reaction to the sin there were also different actions of redemption. The sin of adultery and the power to better oneself from a sin is portrayed through the life of Hester Prynne. Hester’s sin was that she had a child with Dimmesdale when she was married to another man, Chillingsworth. As a punishment for this sin, she was forced to stand in ignominy as the entire town ridiculed her. She was also forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest, which was made of “fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread” (37). The letter was to be worn as a constant reminder of her sin and caused her to become “the general symbol.. of women’s frailty and sinful passion” (54). At first the letter caused the “young and pure.. to look at her scarlet letter flaming on her breast” as a sign of what not to do (54). But Hester took this public humiliation and guilt and chose to embrace it instead of hiding from it. She faced the “tortures of her daily shame [to] purge her soul” (55). To rebuild herself from her sin, she tried to do good by helping anyone possible, even the “wretches less miserable than herself” and tried her best to make herself seem saint-like (57). This process of seeking forgiveness from the townspeople took several years, but after seven years, the “outcast of society at once...
Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1994. Print.
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