The Sin Of Repentance In The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Dimmesdale, the town's minister, commits the sin of adultery with Hester Prynne. At the beginning of the novel the town forces Hester to stand on the town scaffold in order to confess and atone for her sin, while Dimmesdale hides in the background for seven years. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale creates his own means of repentance in order to have himself forgiven. After confessing to the town he dies peacefully believing that God forgives him. According to the principles stated by Rav Soleveitchik in his essay “The Power of Confession”, despite not being punished right away, Dimmesdale completes atonement for his sin by following the steps required of a sinner. The first step of repentance identified by the Rav is that the sinner must not commit the sin again. The Rav writes, “that the sinner [must] abandon his sin, remove it from his thoughts and resolve in his heart never to repeat it again” (pg. 100). The Rav explains that one cannot repent if he continues repeating the sin, …show more content…
The Rav states, “but rather in a process that at times extends over a whole lifetime, a process that begins with remorse, with a sense of guilt, with man’s increasing awareness that there is no purpose to his life, with a feeling of isolation, of being lost and adrift in a vacuum, of spiritual bankruptcy, of frustration and failure” (pg. 84). As explained by the Rav, repentance is a prolonged process that can last an entire lifetime. Although it only takes merely a few seconds to commit a sin, it is not easy to atone for a sin; man needs to fill his days with remorse and sorrow in order to fully repent. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne describes a disturbing process Dimmesdale goes through on a nightly basis to cleanse himself from sin. Hawthorne

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