Theme Of Personal Punishment In The Scarlet Letter

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"Ah, but," interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, "let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart", claimed a townswomen in The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne p. 36). Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, her lover, are punished publicly and privately because of the sins they committed. In the Scarlet Letter, the use of the characterization of Hester and Dimmesdale demonstrate that private punishment is stronger than personal punishment.
Hester suffers from many forms of public punishment, it begins with the prison. The prison is described as somber, dreary, and studded with spikes, it represents the evil in nature and isolation, which Hester is isolated from the town due to her sin (p.
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His suffering inspires him to preach sermons that were stronger than his ever before, so the people in the town think that he is too holy to be living on earth. In response, he tells the people that he is the worst sinner of them all. His guilt causes him to suffer physically, he begins to not eat, to whip his chest and to deprive himself of sleep (p. 95-100). Dimmesdale punishing himself internally causes him to change his opinion of himself. As said by Carpenter, “For Arthur Dimmesdale… he sinned against his own morality, he felt himself unable to grasp the freedom which Hester urged” (p. 297). He could not forgive himself if he tried because his sins are against his own moral standards. To attempt to make himself feel less guilty, he gets onto the scaffold one night and screams. He invites Hester and Pearl to join him on the scaffold, and they do, which represents his sin of concealment because he will only acknowledge his family when no one is near. As they all are standing up there, an “A” appears in the sky (p. 129-131). He believes that it is a sign from God judging his sin and cowardice, according to his beliefs you must be predestined to go to Heaven. Committing the sins makes him believe that God has not chosen him to go to Heaven, which increases the amount of guilt and self-doubt he …show more content…
As Hester begins to be more active in the society, the townspeople begin to think of her differently. They interpret the scarlet letter as meaning “able” and not “adulterer”. They believe that she is a dependable person and that she is humble (p. 135-138). As for Dimmesdale, he gives his most powerful sermon, then resolves his private punishment by getting on the scaffold and revealing the markings on his chest to the town. After he confesses Pearl kisses him, which she had not done previously due to him not acknowledging Pearl, which resolves his sin of concealment. Hester and Dimmesdale say their goodbyes, Dimmesdale then dies and he is relieved of his sins (p. 206-210). Both characters are relieved from their sins in the end, but they suffer more from private punishment than from public punishment. Carpenter states that, Dimmesdale sinned through passion and hiding what he did, so his punishment was greater than Hester’s (p.293). If he would of told the town what he did, his private punishment would have been lighter due to him not feeling as much

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