Sin, Punishment, and Redemption in "The Scarlet Letter"


Revealed in 1850, The Scarlet Letter was effectively acquired and have become extremely popular. The primary version of 2500 copies was bought out inside three days, and was adopted by the second and a 3rd version throughout the next six months. Since then the e book has by no means been out of print. It has at all times been a favorite e book each with readers and critics. Man of the early readers and critics discover the e book too gloomy and sombre however they have been happy that right here lastly was a piece by an American writer that might stand with one of the best factor produced in England. The neatness of its organized construction has attracted the eye of numerous readers and critics. The e book has been discovered helpful in a research of Romantic Motion and extra particularly, of the Gothic, the historic and mawkish novel. Nathaniel Hawthorne has a really distinctive and distinct type of romantic writing. He makes use of numerous strategies to develop his tales, characters, and conditions. He additionally incorporates his personal life experiences into his novels and reveals points of himself by way of characters. One particular novel that Hawthorne portrays himself into a personality is The Scarlet Letter.It’s a gorgeous success of American fiction. The story relies on an ‘entry’ (F. Randy Nelson’s The Almanac of American Letters) in Hawthorne’s pocket book:

“The lifetime of a girl, who, by an previous colony legislation, was condemned to put on the letter ‘A’, sewed on her garment, in token of her having dedicated adultery.” (“The Almanac of American Letters”)

The story, laid within the New England of 1642-1649, is about Hester Prynne and her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, whose father is Arthur Dimmesdale, the Minister; and about Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s aged and egocentric husband in England, who has come to the colony within the guise of a health care provider to torture Dimmesdale into the shamming confession of his fatherhood. Solely by public acknowledgement and declaration of guilt can Dimmesdale can discover the peace of his thoughts. Hester herself, by no means privately admitting that her act was a sin, can discover no such peace; but for her, as in some extent for Dimmesdale, their sin brings a somber maturing of their souls, they usually discover a fashionable equal of the extra god-like future, foretold by the Archangel Michael in Milton’s Paradise Misplaced, for man after the autumn. It has the wonder and concord of all unique and full conceptions and its weaker spots should not of its essence, however mere mild flaws and inequalities of floor. The novel has the inexhaustible attraction and thriller of nice artistic endeavors. It has a excessive type of polish in addition to an enthralling freshness. Hawthorne has cultivated with nice trade his pure sense of language, his flip for saying issues frivolously in sensitive temper, picturesquely but merely, and for infusing a gently colloquial tone into matter of probably the most unfamiliar import. The Scarlet Letter offers with totally different points, that are portrayed within the novel straight or not directly. It’s a psychological romance with the tragic incidents of crime and punishment. Hawthorne additionally made symbolic approaches utilizing ambiguous language and irony. The Puritan society of this novel is a matter of consideration additionally. This novel is able to being interpreted in numerous methods.

Sin, Punishment, and Redemption in The Scarlet Letter:

Sin and information are linked within the Judeo-Christian custom. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve, who have been expelled from the “Backyard of Eden” for consuming from the “Tree of Information of Good and Evil”. Because of their information, Adam and Eve are made conscious of their disobedience, that which separates them from the divine and from different creatures. As soon as expelled from the Backyard of Eden, they’re pressured to toil and to procreate – two “labors” that appear to outline the human situation. The expertise of Hester and Dimmesdale recollects the story of Adam and Eve as a result of, in each circumstances, sin ends in expulsion and struggling. But it surely additionally ends in information – particularly, in information of what it means to be human. For Hester, the scarlet letter features as her passport into areas the place different girls dared not tread main her to “speculate” about her society and herself extra “boldly” than anybody else in New England. As for Dimmesdale, the “dishonest minister” of his sin provides him sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, in order that his chest vibrates in unison with theirs.

His eloquent and highly effective sermons derive from this sense of empathy. The narrative of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is kind of consistent with the oldest and most totally approved rules in Christian thought. His “Fall” is a descent from obvious grace to his personal damnation; he seems to start in purity. He ends in corruption. The subtlety is that the minister is his personal deceiver, convincing himself at each stage of his non secular pilgrimage that he’s saved. The rosebush, its magnificence a putting distinction to all that surrounds it – as later the fantastically embroidered scarlet A will probably be – is held out partly as an invite to search out some candy ethical blossom” within the ensuing, tragic story and partly as a picture that “the deep coronary heart of nature (maybe God) could look extra kindly on the errant Hester and her youngster (the roses among the many weeds) than her Puritan neighbors do. All through the work, the character pictures distinction with the stark darkness of the Puritans and their programs.

Chillingworth’s misshapen physique displays (or symbolizes) the evil in his soul, which builds because the novel progresses, just like the best way Dimmesdale’s sickness reveals his internal turmoil. The outward man displays the situation of the guts. Though Pearl is a posh character, her major perform throughout the novel is as an emblem. Pearl herself is the embodiment of the scarlet letter, and Hester rightly garments her in a fantastic gown of scarlet, embroidered with gold thread, identical to the scarlet letter upon Hester’s bosom. Parallels might be drawn between Pearl and the character Beatrice in Rappaccini’s Daughter. Each are research in the identical course, although from totally different standpoints. Beatrice is nourished upon toxic vegetation, till she herself turns into toxic. Pearl, within the mysterious prenatal world, imbibes the poison of her mother and father’ guilt.

Crime and penalty are dealt right here each on private and social stage. The act of adultery is a criminal offense in opposition to the person, that particular person being the improper husband or spouse. However adultery can also be a criminal offense in opposition to society. Hester Prynne has by her adulterous motion, wronged her husband Chillingworth and that’s what she tells him in so many phrases. The improper that she has achieved to her husband is a criminal offense to a private stage. However as a member so society she can also be a sinner. Hester herself doesn’t contemplate her adulterous motion to be a severe crime or sin. For the rationale, she doesn’t expertise any deep sense of guilt even after society has pronounced his judgment upon her. Hester believes within the sanctity of affection relationship between her and Dimmesdale. The scarlet letter ‘A’ is the stigma that Hester has to hold at all times for her misdeed. Youngsters comply with her and shout at her. She is cruelly handled by the society. However the inherent goodness of Hester and her maternal solitude to Pearl maintain her from additional evil. Her crime is the intense one and her punishment is nice. But it surely have to be identified that the punishment comes from the society and is unaccompanied by any pangs of the society.

Dimmesdale produces an impression of weak point and timidity. He aggravates his sin of adultery by his extended concealment of it and he additional aggravates it by making an attempt to maintain up an look of piety. Because the novel is primarily a narrative of fall of a fantastic priest, we are able to simply defy Dimmesdale because the tragic hero. His life can also be one lengthy distress. He succumbs to temptation as soon as once more when in the midst of his forest interview with Hester; he agrees to flee from Boston along with her, although he couldn’t persist with it. This motion additionally leads him to break down and makes him a tragic hero. His weak point magnifies relatively than lessens the facility of story. His struggle is inner. His confession to the general public is in of the noblest climaxes in tales to tragedy. Dimmesdale’s castigation comes purely from inside. Society doesn’t punish him as a result of it doesn’t know that he’s a higher sinner of adultery and likewise of hypocrisy. He’s on a regular basis haunted by the sense of guilt. The very fact of concealment serves solely to accentuate his distress. He undergoes numerous sorts of penance together with vigils, fasts and flagellation. Society doesn’t play the least half within the psychological torture, although the position performed by Chillingworth can’t be ignored. Nonetheless, the crime that Dimmesdale achieved is extreme and the extra bitter crime is his being hypocrite. However he receives his punishment and thru it Hawthorne reveals us his noble traits.

Transgression, in a way, creates Hester; it almost damns Dimmesdale. And Chillingworth the wronged husband turns right into a fiend when he dedicates his life to a hideous occasion. Hester goes by way of the punishment however she doesn’t want the purification as a result of she doesn’t commit any crime. Love can’t be known as a criminal offense, although society tortured her. Dimmesdale is the true sinner and we see him going by way of hid psychological purification for seven years. He understands his sin and he confesses his crime earlier than his demise. We will name Chillingworth a fantastic sinner right here as a result of he isn’t a very good husband and he additionally chooses a strategy to torture Dimmesdale which can also be a form of hypocrisy from social viewpoint. However this character doesn’t undergo any vital regeneration of thoughts. He reveals the impact of sin in lots of characters and appears to suggest that it will likely be sin when an individual is aware in doing it. The author right here is contemplating his personal viewpoint and he isn’t supporting the view of the society. So when he makes the characters to purify themselves, the readers takes them as constructive approaches and agree with the author.

The romanticists consider in full freedom for the person. In accordance with the romantic manner o considering, it’s the consent of the 2 events in a sexual relationship that’s vital. If the 2 events themselves conform to a sexual relationship, nothing else ought to matter, and noting ought to come between them. However such a view, if accepted by a majority of individuals, would result in full chaos and dysfunction in social relations. Such a view reveals no respect for any form of decency or regulated social conduct which is crucial for the upkeep of social stability and for the holiness of conjugal relationships. Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale infringe the “Seventh Commandment” which says:

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (“The Scarlet Letter”)

Infidelity is unlawful and immoral in all civilized communities and nations and it’s, due to this fact, perverse on the a part of anybody to defend within the title of particular person freedom. Having dedicated this crime, Hester and Dimmesdale should pay for it, they usually do actually pay for it. The truth that we really feel a deep sympathy for each the sinners doesn’t present both that Hawthorne protects adultery or that we contemplate the conduct of the 2 characters to be pardonable.

Hester Prynne has victimized her husband, Roger Chillingworth, by her adulterous motion, and that’s what she tells him in so many phrases. The improper that she has achieved to her husband is a criminal offense on a private stage. However she has additionally mistreated society of which she is a member. This society seems to be upon adultery as a extreme form of sin that needs to be punished with demise. Hester herself doesn’t mull over her adulterous motion to be a severe crime or sin. For that reason she doesn’t expertise any deep sense of guilt even after society has pronounced its judgment upon her. On her opposite, Hester believes within the sanctity of the love relationship between her and Dimmesdale. “What we did”, she says to Dimmesdale within the forest,

“Had a consecration of its personal. We felt it so; we stated so; we stated so to one another.” (“The Scarlet Letter”)

For that reason, her conscience doesn’t bother Hester. Hester’s punishment is solely social. She has to face on the platform of the pillory, with the folks gazing curiously on the scarlet letter on her breast. Society has decreed that she shall put on all through her life a scarlet letter on the boson of her robe. That is the stigma that Hester has to hold at all times. She turns into a social outcast. Youngsters comply with her and shout at her. Strangers gaze on the scarlet on her bosom and make no secret of their contempt for her. She is cruelly handled by society. Her quite a few acts of service as a Sister of Mercy do soften the world to some extent, however don’t safe her its pardon. Society continues to be agency and harsh. Some other lady rather than Hester would have been received over to the facet of the Satan or the Black Man. However the inherent goodness of Hester and her maternal solicitude for Pearl maintain her away from any additional evil. Within the forest interview with Dimmesdale, he recommend that they escape from Boston in order that they will lead a brand new life, however she doesn’t accomplish that as a result of, as has been stated above, she doesn’t contemplate her relationship with Dimmesdale to be immoral or sinful. In her view on morality, she is a romantic of the intense sort. Ultimately, when her desires of happiness with Dimmesdale have come to nothing and her duties as a mom has come to an finish, she resumes her lifetime of normal helpfulness to the Boston neighborhood, and resumes additionally the scarlet letter on her bosom. Her felony was a severe one, and her punishment is nice. But it surely have to be identified once more that the penalty comes from society and is introverted by any paroxysm of the conscience.

As for Dimmesdale the reverse is the case. His punishment comes purely from inside. Society doesn’t penalize him as a result of the social order doesn’t know of the sin that he has dedicated. He’s a higher offender than Hester as a result of, to the offense of adultery, he provides the sin of concealment or hypocrisy. His double customary saves him from social censure or social ostracism or another type of societal motion. Had society come to know his crime, it could have sentenced him to demise. As it’s, he’s the sufferer of his conscience solely. Dimmesdale’s conscience not solely permits him no peace however is a supply of fixed torment to him. He’s on a regular basis haunted by a way of guilt. The very fact of concealment serves solely to accentuate his distress. He undergoes numerous sorts of penance, together with vigils, fasts, and flagellation. However, as he tells Hester within the forest, it’s all reparation and no penitence. One evening he even mounts the scaffold as an act of expiation. However, because the writer remarks, it’s a mockery of penance and never true amend. Quickly after this forest interview, he hardens himself and determines to make a public confession of his sin. He carries out his resolves to unburden his coronary heart, and in a couple of minutes, meets his finish on the scaffold. This incident is the climax of his non secular growth. He confesses his guilt and offers away his life, however he has established his proper to a spot in heaven by advantage of his act of real repentance and confession. As Hawthorne factors out, a person like Dimmesdale shouldn’t commit a criminal offense like adultery. Crime is for the hardened particular person who is robust sufficient to crush the voice of his conscience. Society doesn’t play the least half within the psychological torture which Dimmesdale undergoes, although the position performed by Roger Chillingworth on this connection cannot be ignored. Chillingworth persecutes Dimmesdale and does so in a delicate method. He significantly aggravates the struggling of the poor minister. In a way, Roger Chillingworth could also be thought to be an agent of society, as a result of he’s an aggrieved husband avenging himself on the person who has dishonored him. Because the wronged companion, Roger Chillingworth could signify all husbands of his class. Nonetheless, it could be extra applicable to look upon Chillingworth’s revenge as a private, relatively than social settling of scores.


In the long run, Hawthorne has primarily handled the concept of ‘Sin, Punishment, and Redemption’ and he believed in sin and pre-destination like a real puritan. He inherited his Puritanism from his ancestors. Hawthorne repeatedly asks the query:

“What’s the goal of evil on the planet? Is sin a component of human training by way of which we wrestle to a better state than we may have in any other case attained?” (“Hawthorne and the Historic Romance of New England”)

Hawthorne was deeply learn within the works of the early New England divines, as additionally The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Bible. Underneath the affect of his studying, he felt evil to be a actuality that might not be defined away. His temperament, his studying, his household custom have been all liable for his tales having strongly ethical themes. In all his tales written earlier than 1850, the one over-riding consideration is the wages of sin. It was however pure that Hawthorne ought to have handled an ethical theme in The Scarlet Letter which appeared in 1850. Hawthorne isn’t so involved with the reason for sin as with the implications of sin. In accordance with him, sin is relative, not absolute. Therefore, the implications of guilt in The Scarlet Letter are primarily psychological in nature.

Works Cited:

Bell, Michael Davitt. Hawthorne and the Historic Romance of New England. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Firm, 1980: 173.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Viking Penguin Inc., 1983:18, 34. 

Nelson, Randy F.). The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981.

Source by Md. Ziaul Haque