Essay On The Role Of Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Role of Sin in The Scarlet Letter
According to Robert Zoellick, former United States Deputy Secretary of State, “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” Zoellick expresses the ironic central conflict between facing punishment for sin versus hiding sin to protect one’s reputation. Seventeenth-century Boston has become a strict Puritan settlement, focused on punishment and repentance for one’s sins, as well as seeking God’s salvation and mercy. Hester Prynne, a young mother, begins with the public struggle and isolation due to her sin. She bears a scarlet letter “A” (the mark of an adulteress) on her chest. Hester has a child as a result
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He arrives to notice Hester and Pearl standing on the scaffold, and immediately decides to seek revenge on Pearl’s father. Chillingworth begins to care for Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the beloved pastor of Boston. However, Dimmesdale hides a dark secret, and Chillingworth suspects this. The conflict arises between Chillingworth’s struggle with revenge and Dimmesdale’s desire to protect his secret. Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale plan to flee Europe, but their plan ends once Chillingworth finds out. However, after Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale stand on the scaffold together and Dimmesdale confesses and exposes his hidden letter, he falls dead. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne emphasizes the role of sin in a Puritan society through irony, the character of Pearl, and the scarlet letter. First, irony emphasizes the struggle of hiding sin to protect one’s reputation. Next, Pearl symbolizes the human version of Hester’s letter and humanity’s proclivity to sin. Lastly, the scarlet letter, a symbol of Hester’s identity, exemplifies the role of sin in the novel. In a society that treats sin as a public matter, people struggle with the effects of their …show more content…
Hawthorne writes, “...many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said it meant Able, so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (146). Meant to publicly shame Hester, the symbol becomes not a representation of sin, but rather of strength, hope, and ability. Waggoner states, “...Hester Prynne seems at once to share the community’s judgement upon her, yet to accept herself with her past and her destiny intact” (65). Hester shares the community’s shameful feeling towards her sin, but also accepts it and her future. Next, Hawthorne writes one of the most ironic quotes in the novel. The community praises, “‘The godly youth!’ said they among themselves. ‘The saint on earth’” (131). Perhaps one of the most ironic quotes in the novel, the community praises Dimmesdale as “the saint on Earth”, even though he committed a heinous sin. One of the prime examples of irony in the novel is that merely forcing suffering and shame upon sinners for the effect of “purification” cannot be found in God’s morals. A guilty conscience and merciful heart surely affects a person more positively than vengeance (Scarlet 141). The Puritan’s focus on religion, but ironically fail to acknowledge that their practices are against God’s true morals. Morals do not preach public shaming and suffering, but rather merciful forgiveness. Furthermore, the role of Pearl in the novel helps to develop the

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