Sin, Harbinger Of Virtue In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Sin, Harbinger of Virtue Everyday, numerous crimes are committed, such as burglary, arson, assault, and murder. While it is important to focus on helping victims, we often forget about the struggles of the criminals after serving their time in jail. In his novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the experiences of Hester Prynne, who is known to have committed adultery, and her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale and how they cope with their misdeed. Hawthorne uses the symbol of the scarlet letter in order to demonstrate how sins and the acceptance of them, contrary to popular belief, can actually be beneficial to the moral and emotional development of a person. The Puritan society forces Hester Prynne, who committed adultery, to wear …show more content…
Even though Hester is not living in the best of conditions, she spends her effort and time helping others in the community, as an act of absolution and generosity. Because of her deeds, many Puritans “[refused] to interpret the scarlet letter ‘A’ by its original signification” and instead “said that it meant ‘Able’” (158). Both the meaning of the scarlet letter and feelings toward Hester have changed; originally, both were associated with sin, now they are both associated with benevolence. Despite the antagonism surrounding the scarlet letter, Hester was able to overcome both the public’s disdain and her own guilt to develop into a person with better moral principles. By ignoring the Puritans’ beliefs about the letter, she was able to to expose the beauty within her that had been hidden for a long time. The changing of meaning of the letter to Able also represents how she was able to face many difficulties while supporting her daughter and herself. Through her struggles, she was able to learn to overcome difficulties and unveil her true stubborn, yet altruistic, …show more content…
Before he made the grand revelation, Dimmesdale was always restrained by his guilt and he felt shamed by his own hypocrisy. Dimmesdale is constantly unable to cope with the fact that as a minister, someone who is highly respected in the community, has committed a grievous crime, and he would often “[ply a whip] on his own shoulders, laughing bitterly at himself the while” (141). In order to make himself at peace, Dimmesdale resorts to physical pain in an attempt to atone for his sins and he laughs at himself in shame. After sustaining the burden of immense physical and emotional pain, he reveals himself “with a flush of triumph in his face,” feeling like “he had won a victory” (250-251). Only by admitting his guilt did Dimmesdale feel at rest, even for just an instant before death. For his entire life, Dimmesdale is forced to live with the fact that he was a respected clergyman who hid a terrible sin and was affected both mentally and physically. When he confesses, he has a fleeting feeling of freedom that he has never felt ever since committing adultery. Although it leads to his physical death, emotionally, he feels better than ever. After his confession, not only is he emotionally free, but he is also morally strengthened due to his exposure of his hypocrisy. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne utilizes the changing meaning of the scarlet letter and its relation to sin in order to reveal

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