Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter And Sin

Literature: Scarlet Letter

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Hester Prynne, through the eyes of the Puritans, is an extreme sinner; she has
gone against the Puritan ways, committing adultery. For this irrevocably harsh
sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the rest of her life. "On the
breast of her gown, in a fine red cloth surrounded by an elaborate embroidery
and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter 'A.'" Hester's
scarlet "A" serves as a public symbol of her private sin. Because
Hester is able to declare her guilt openly, she is freed from excessive remorse,
and her sin serves to enrich and dignify rather than to destroy her. The letter
makes her stronger and more an individual. As foreshadow as Hawthorne speaks of
the scarlet letter, "..It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the
ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself,"
Hester indeed does isolate herself, and stays ".... out of the sphere of
social activity.." and moves out to an isolated cottage. Hester decides
that "Here....had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene
of her earthly punishment, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge
her soul and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more
saintlike, because of the result of matyrdom. Hester Prynne, therefore did not
flee." This is where she sinned, this shall be where she suffers and gives
penance. As expected, Hester is at first shunned and humiliated by the
townspeople, who ignore their own faults and project them onto Hester, and then
later their children project them onto Pearl, who does not have the "divine
maternity" of Hester, who can do no wrong. Hester behaves with decorum and
grace, helping others who are hungry, sick, or in need. Slowly the disdain of
the townspeople turns to admiration, "...Many people refused to interpet
the scarlet "A" by it's orginial signification. They said it meant
"Able"..." and Hester becomes a respected person in a Puritan
society by overcoming one of the harshest punishments, the scarlet letter. All
in all, in the conclusion of the book, Hawthorne demondstrats to us that Hester
Prynne and Arthur Dimmsdale, whom both commited the same sin, but dealt and
lived with it in completly different ways, were ultimately both forgiven. We
learn that their graves were next to one another, but "..with a space
inbetween, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle." but,
in the end "Yet one tombstone served for both." Finally, we are left
with: "On a Field, Sable, The Letter A Gules." Arthur Dimmesdale is
his own worst enemy. He hates himself and must physically inflict pain upon
himself. "He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he
tortured, but could not purify, himself" to never forget what he has done.
He lacks the courage to risk his important position in society by admitting his
sin publicly, but is unable to achieve any inner calm while living with his
hypocrisy. To Dimmesdale, it is bad that Hester is shown publicly as a sinner,
but people forget that. What is far worse than public shame is Dimmesdale's own
cruel inner shame. Publicly he becomes more and more passionate and effective in
his sermons and moral counsil to his congregation. Privately he is torn with
self-hatred, and his body wastes away because of the remorse and knowing what
only he and Hester know gnaws at his soul. He has not confessed, therefore he
knows he can't begin his true penance, thus never being forgiven. He finally has
the courage to do so at the hour of his death.
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