Sin In The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Sin in the Scarlet Letter: The Use of Masks and Secrecy Vs. Open Confession

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs: 28) These words embody the underlying morals of The Scarlet Letter, an American novel published in 1850, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter presents the unfortunate situation of Hester Prynne, an adulteress in a Puritan community. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, seeks revenge against Arthur Dimmesdale, the father of Hester’s child, Pearl. This introduces an internal struggle between sin and evil, and an external one between sin and morality. The adultery leads to punishments, palpable and obvious to society, such as public humiliation,
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This idea of sin versus evil is most evident in Chapter 17, The Pastor and His Parishioner, when Hester meets Dimmesdale in the woods to reveal, and seek forgiveness for concealing, that her husband was his doctor, Chillingworth. She also wants to help Dimmsdale find peace with himself, after noticing that the guilt of sin had been boiling within him for so long. She convinces Dimmesdale that their sin was not an act of evil, saying, “What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other! Hast thou forgotten it?”(134). By saying it “had a consecration of its own” goes to show that their sin was sacred, and although it was a sin, it was not evil. This idea that sin and evil are different is further supported when Dimmesdale is reflecting on his sin, and considers that “this had been a sin of passion, not of principle, nor even purpose.” (137). This illustrates that the sin was not done with the purpose of harming anyone, rather it was a precipitous sin, done without thought. In both quotes, Hawthorne emphasizes ideas that demonstrate that a sin without malicious intentions is not an act of evil. A sin is something that goes against society, in this case Puritans’, expectations of morality, while evil has the intention of actually harming someone, emotionally or physically. For instance lack of confession could be considered evil, as it has …show more content…
After Hester reveals that Chillingworth is her husband, Dimmesdale comes to the epiphany that his sin was not evil, forgives Hester for hiding this information, and says
“We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man’s revenge hath been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!”(134). This displays that abusing human emotions and pursuing revenge, is much worse than adultery, as it is done with the intention of hurting another. Chillingworth wore a mask, acting as a friend, to cover up his plan for revenge and corruption of a heart. Wearing this mask made his revenge all the more pernicious, as it went unseen. By remaining hidden, he could get revenge by burdening Dimmesdale with guilt, while never being stopped, which in turn, corrupted his own heart. Chillingworth looked for revenge, and was never completely content with his results, attempting to break Dimmesdale even more. Once Dimmesdale confesses, and there is no more revenge left for Chillingworth to seek, he shouts “Thou hast escaped me!” twice, and dies. It shows that seeking revenge instead of forgiving is more evil than any “sin of passion”, for it led to his ultimate demise, as well as the destruction

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