Examples Of Hypocrisy In The Scarlet Letter

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A Scarlet Letter Essay “Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you’re moral, saying you’re moral is not the same as acting morally” (Dershowitz). In the 17th century, Puritanism a prevalent religion in America. It brought the idea of perfection and high morality. The truth is, however, staying at high moral standing is impossible, as humans will make mistakes numerous times in their lifetimes. Many exploit this idea, using their position in society to get away with things otherwise unacceptable. Nathaniel Hawthorne shows this idea in “The Scarlet Letter”, as a community who lives in sin isolates another member due to committing sin. Ironically enough, members of the community engage in similar sin, but …show more content…
Dimmesdale, for example, has an ironic turn of events when he reveals to the town he is the father of Pearl. After his death, many of the spectators believed his speech and the lashings on his chest “[had] the slightest connection… with the guilt for which Hester Prynne has so long worn the scarlet letter”( 231). His speech was to show that even he, the holiest of all, can commit sins much like Hester, and they should not base their decisions on a single action. The message flew over their heads, and they believed he fabricated the story in order to teach them a lesson, and they still holding their good view of their now deceased minister. Earlier in the novel, Chillingworth is introduced as he puts on his detective hat and begins to try to solve the case of the mystery man who is Pearl’s father. He attempts to do this by interrogating Hester to find out who her secret lover is, but she refuses to answer. He then hostilely replies with “ I leave thee alone; alone with thy infant and the scarlet letter! How is it, Hester? Doth thy sentence bind thee to wear the token in thy sleep?” (72). The irony in this is Chillingworth is, at first, revealed to the community as this holy man who would help cure Dimmsdale of his illness, however in his confrontation with Hester, he is a bitter and hostile man, full of hatred toward Hester because of her previous actions. …show more content…
As Hester develops, she surprisingly becomes worse and drops the perspective of the situation she’s in as that she once had. Hawthorne first describes Hester as “being beautiful from regularity from feature and richness and complexion” and “characterized by a certain state and dignity”(50). Seven years later, Hester’s “light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up by this red-hot brand” (148). Hester, who was once described as this strong, independent character who could not be toppled by any obstacle, has now been set into this state of irritation, which is not only ironic, but also hypocritical because she was implied to have been taking this punishment wholeheartedly without lashing back at it. Chillingworth also develops into a state in which the past was just a ghost of his former self. Although initially seen as a godsend to this upset community, he’s now described as “ [a] man … transforming himself into the devil.”(153) All in all, Hawthorne tackles the idea hypocrisy by using the issues with Puritanism, irony, and character development to his advantage. The irony in the Puritanism and change of character due to this helps tie together the ideas previously mentioned to explain the concept of hypocrisy smoothly. Coming out of the book, one can take away from it that basing your beliefs solely on one idea

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