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Essay/Term paper: Sin in the scarlet letter

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Scarlet Letter

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Everyone has violated either moral or religious law at least once in his or her entire lifetime. On the outside, they might be "looking pure as new-fallen snow; while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity of which they cannot rid themselves."(p.116) Some walk secretly with this heavy sin in their heart, while others get shamed in public because their sin is displayed openly. Since these sins are all different, the consequences and the significance may also vary in importance. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth sins and all of the wrongdoings vary in significance.

The story develops when Hester Prynne commits the sin of adultery. Even though Hester's mistake was driven by innocent passion for Dimmesdale, the puritans took this seriously. By wearing the scarlet letter A on her chest, the village people look at her as an outcast. The puritans don't look at the sin as an act of love but instead as the work of the devil. However, Hawthorne makes it so that Hester's sin seems less serious than that of Chillingworth. Hester's sin seems more innocent because it was driven by her affection for Dimmesdale rather than of the intelligence. Her sin can also be considered less serious because Hester is willing to accept her sin and deal with the consequences publicly.

As for Chillingworth, his sin is the manipulation of a human being. His deathly sin is not committed because he needs to, but Chillingworth commits this sin because he wants to. " Never did mortal suffer what [Dimmesdale] has suffered"(p.150) and it's all because of Chillingworth. His only reason for why he is sinning is because Chillingworth wants revenge on Dimmesdale, which is more serious than Hester's sin. Chillingworth actually knows that his actions are hurting a human being and that's where the seriousness of his sin comes in. Unlike Hester Prynne, "He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. [ Dimmesdale] and Hester, never did so!"(p.105) Meaning that Chillingworth dark sin is actually killing a human being. Even though Chillingworth's only intention is to get revenge on Dimmesdale, he is hurting the towns people as well as Hester and Pearl. By making Dimmesdale weaker and weaker, the puritans are loosing a minister that has always been there for them. Chillingworth is also hurting Hester and Pearl because he is preventing Dimmesdale from being with them.

Just like Hester Prynne, Dimmesdale's sin is of the same importance as hers. However, Dimmesdale's sin is a concealed one, which distinguishes it from Hester's sin. Although his wrongdoing starts off in the same path as Hester, his sin can be considered to be worse. First of all, Dimmesdale does not tell the public that he is the father of Pearl, and second he does not let Pearl know that he's her "earthly father." His sin is not only hurting himself but also the people around him such as Hester and Pearl. He hurts Hester by letting her "stand alone in the world" (p.143) and he hurts Pearl by not letting her have a father. Even though Dimmesdale sin is not as deadly as Chillingworth, his sin is ripping off the happiness of the people around him.

Altogether, the sins of all the characters are different from each other as well as varying in their importance. In The Scarlet Letter, the characters are all sinners one way or the other. Hester, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are all offenders of the puritan code but their sins are not on same the seriousness scale. Throughout the whole story, some sins are more serious than others are, while some sins can be considered as harmless to the people around.


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