The Scarlet Letter


Points To Ponder

In what ways do the two primary relationships, the relationship between Hester and Chillingworth and the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale, combine to demonstrate the concept of a whole marriage?

Hester has two romantic relationships in the novel, her marriage to her husband and her affair with Dimmesdale. However, neither of these relationships is a complete relationship. Her relationship with Chillingworth had economic stability, social recognition, and apparently respectful treatment. While she later comes to view that marriage in a negative light and was not satisfied during it, there is no indication that he treated her poorly. In contrast, Dimmesdale does not show the same level of concern and respect for Hester’s well-being. Moreover, their relationship is an illegitimate one, not recognized by society. Despite these drawbacks, they have a very passionate relationship with an intensity that Hester never had in her relationship with her husband. Thus, the two relationships, combined, form the ideal marriage.

How does Hawthorne contrast the religious and the holy in the novel? Does he establish a difference between what God would view positively and what men suggest God would view positively?

Hawthorne’s continuous commentary about sin explores the dichotomy between behavior established as sinful by people and behavior that God would view as sinful. Hawthorne certainly does not disagree with the fact that the extramarital relationship would be considered a sin. However, he believes that there are different types of sin, and he believes that cold-hearted sins are more likely to displease God. This is in contrast to how society views sin, with the emphasis on lustful crimes as those being most offensive in the eyes of God. One need only observe how Hawthorne treats Pearl and Hester in contrast to how he depicts Chillingworth in the novel to understand Hawthorne’s concepts of the different levels of sin.

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