The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve, who are soon expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge. Accordingly, Adam and Eve are enlightened of their humanness. This new knowledge sets them apart from other creatures of the world. After their expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve are forced to toil and procreate-two “labors” that characterize the Human Condition. The tale of Hester and Dimmesdale recounts that of Adam and Eve because, in both stories, sin results in expulsion and suffering. Yet it also leads to knowledge, particularly the knowledge of what it is to be human. The Scarlet Letter emphasizes the association between sin, knowledge, and the Human Condition.
Hester is ushered into a sort of
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The knowledge of his sin is unknown to all but himself and Hester. To Dimmesdale his sin is an affliction to which he can find no rest. He attempts to find treatment in his burden by holding late-night vigils, fasting, and even scourging himself with a whip. His struggles allow him to empathize with human weakness. The hindrance of his sin gives him “sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his heart vibrated in unison with theirs” (95). Dimmesdale reaches a new understanding of how sin can affect others. This new empathy draws out Dimmesdale’s most powerful and impassioned sermons. Roger Chillingworth is another character agitated by sin. When Chillingworth first arrives in the colony he deceives the townspeople and tells them he is a physician. His primary sin is that of vengeance. He vows he will find the man that Hester committed adultery with, and that he will have revenge. Completely opposite of Hester, Chillingworth’s mind is at peace with his sin. His body, however, becomes more and more deformed as time goes on, portraying that his need for vengeance is causing an outward effect. It soon become evident that his desire for revenge is boundless,
I will hunt this man as I have hunted truth in books; as I have searched for gold in alchemy. There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder,