Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

2142 words - 9 pages

 
   Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment.  The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed

            Dimmesdale's instantaneous response to the sin is to lie.  He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father's best interest for her to reveal the father's name (67).  Though he never actually says that he is not the other parent, he implies it by talking of the father in third person (67).  Such as, "If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer" (67).  Chillingworth's first reaction is one of shock, but he quickly suppresses it (61).  Since his first sight of his wife in two years is of her being punished for being unfaithful to him, he is naturally surprised.  It does not last for long though, because it is his nature to control his emotions (61).  Pearl's very existence in this scene is the largest immediate effect of her parents' crime (52).  She obviously would never had been there had her parents resisted their love for each other. The second scene occurs several years later and shows the effects after time has had a chance to play its part.  It begins with Dimmesdale climbing the stairs of the scaffold in the middle of the night because it is the closest that he can come to confessing his sin (152).  This scene is especially important because it shows how pitiful he has become.  Dimmesdale shows just how irrational he is when he screams aloud because he fears that the universe is staring at a scarlet token on his breast (153).  It also shows how much guilt he is carrying by the way he perceives the light from a meteor as the letter A.  He believes it stands for adulteress while other people think it stands for angel since the governor just passed away (161).  This scene also shows how Hester is managing her new situation.  When Dimmesdale tells her to come up the scaffold and asks her where she has b! een, she replies that she has been measuring the robe that the governor is to be buried in (158).  This statement implies that Hester's reputation as a talented seamstress has spread.  Ironically, her first well known piece of work was the scarlet letter that she wore on her chest.  As a result, she owes her own success to her infamy.  Besides growing older, Pearl's most significant change is in her perceptibility (158).  In this scene, she constantly asks Dimmesdale if he will be joining Hester and herself on the scaffold tomorrow at noon and accuses him of not being true (162).  Neither Hester nor Dimmesdale ever told Pearl who her father was, but she figures it out by the way he always holds his hand over his heart (159).  Chillingworth's derangement is evident in this...

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