Hester Prynne's Guilt In The Scarlett Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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It comes about when one commits a sin. Almost everyone is affected by it at some point in their life. It is a horrible feeling that eats away at one’s entire being causing great pain and distress. Many people do not realize the extraordinary power of guilt until they are subjected to the feeling itself. In The Scarlet Letter, characters, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale commit adultery, a very serious crime in the puritan community of 17th-century Boston. Hester becomes pregnant and must wear a scarlet “A” as a symbol of her sin. She is publicly shamed for her sin but refuses to tell who committed the sin with her. Dimmesdale does not admit that he is guilty and the guilt begins to torment him. His private guilt causes him to carve an “A” …show more content…
The townspeople react to her sin and punishment with cutting remarks such as, “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me” (59-60). Hester had to endure her public shaming and remarks like this which seems like a horrible punishment that one would try to avoid. The scarlet letter was supposed to cause people to remember her sin every time they looked at her. However, after a while the townspeople started to forget the meaning of the letter. The narrator describes, "Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Abel; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength"(192). Because she was publicly shamed, Hester had to survive the wrath of the town. However, this also meant that Hester was free in a way. She was able to forgive herself through hard work, penance, and caring for her daughter. Though she felt guilty, she never tried to cover the letter up or pretend it did not exist. Instead, she accepted it, and was able to forgive herself because there were no secrets that she was trying to hide. Through the transformation Hester’s image through the scarlet letter, Hawthorne is able to show that public guilt leads to …show more content…
Dimmesdale has kept his guilt hidden for so long that his heath fell apart completely. After he finished his sermon and his confession he dies. If he had confessed with Hester, perhaps he would have been able to forgive himself and prevented his failing health. Hester on the other hand, moves away from Boston with Pearl. They seem to have a happy life however, Hester eventually moves back and continues to wear the scarlet letter. When at the mayors house, Hester states that the scarlet letter, "hath taught me [...] lessons whereof my child may be wiser and better" (130). Hester has learned from her mistakes, but she knows she cannot fix them. Only by embracing her sin and accepting her public punishment is she finally able to live in peace. In the end, the townspeople respect her and bury her near Dimmesdale even though their love was forbidden. The townspeople are able to forgive her for her sin because she has made up for it by taking her public punishment with grace further demonstrating the benefit of confessing rather than suffering in

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