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The Scarlet Letter

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Essay title: The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

According to the New England Primer, a basic textbook used during Puritan times, in Adam's fall, "we sinned all". This quote very much applies to Nathaniel Hawthorne's characters in The Scarlet Letter. The main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and the Puritan society represented by the townspeople, all sinned. This story is a study of the effects of sin on the hearts and minds of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. Sin strengthens Hester, humanizes Dimmesdale, and turns Chillingworth into a demon.

Hester Prynne's sin was adultery. This sin was regarded very seriously by the Puritans, and was often punished by death. Hester's punishment was to endure a public shaming on a scaffold for three hours and wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest for the rest of her life in the town. Although Hawthorne does not pardon Hester's sin, he takes it less serious than those of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. Hester's sin was a sin of passion. This sin was openly acknowledged as she wore the "A" on her chest. She did not deliberately mean to commit her sin or mean to hurt others. Hester's sin is that her passions and love were of more importance to her than the Puritan moral code. This is shown when she says to Dimmesdale, "What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other!"(Hawthorn pg. 48) Hester fully acknowledged her guilt and displayed it with pride to the world. This was obvious by the way she displayed the scarlet letter. It was elaborately designed as if to show Hester was proud. Hester is indeed a sinner, adultery is no light matter, even today.

On the other hand, her sin has brought her not evil, but good. Her charity to the poor, her comfort to the broken-hearted, he unquestionable presence in times of trouble are all direct results of her quest for repentance. Her salvation also lies in the truth. She tells Dimmesdale of Chillingworth's real identity, keeping it a secret before, to aid in her salvation. Her pursuit in telling the truth is evident in the lines, In all things else, I have striven to be true! Truth was the one virtue which I might have held fast, and did hold fast, through all extremity save when thy good--the life--they fame--were put in question! But a lie is never good, even though death threaten the other side! Even though Hester's sin is the one the book is titled after and centered around, it is not nearly the worst sin committed. Hester learns from her sin, and grows strong, a direct result from her punishment.

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,--stern and wild

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