The Theme of Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’


Born on 4ThursdayJuly, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorne established himself as one of the greatest American author. He is best known for his short narratives, most of which were written between 1825- 1850, and two of his celebrated novels which brought to him international fame-The Scarlet Letter( mid-march 1850 ) andThe House of Seven Gables( 1851 ) . He seems to be surrounded by history, all his life. His ascendants were the ill-famed Puritans. He was a portion of the circle that included bookmans and philosophers like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future President Franklin Pierce. His books’ rave reappraisals were written by Edgar Allen Poe. He was a shy, seldom socialising with people except with his married woman Sophia. He thought of himself as excessively much of a realist.

Hawthorne’s work was frequently set in or around the Puritan New England towns of Salem and Concord foregrounding the lip service, wickedness and corruptness. He came from a distinguished Puritan household which had played an active function in the history of Massachusetts. His works threw visible radiation on the darker side of human nature, which he preferred to turn to every bit ‘romance’ as it showed the ‘depths of human nature’ . To him, love affair meant facing the world and non hedging it. He dealt with the thought that human nature is basically flawed. It was Hawthorne’s appreciable endowment that he conveyed his pessimistic position on life through a narrative that attracted readers with its power and truth.

Hawthorne worked as the surveyor of imposts in the port of Salem from 1846-49. In 1853, President Pierce appointed Hawthorne to a four-year term as US consulate in Liverpool, England. 1857 onwards, Hawthorne resided in Italy and once more in England before returning to Concord in 1860.

Hawthorne’s last old ages were unrelieved from somberness and despondence financially, and after four old ages following his return to America, he died while on an expedition with his friend and wise man, Franklin Pierce, on 19 May, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.

The Scarlet Letterwas Hawthorne’s first full-length narrative if we ignore the earlier failure-Fanshawe( 1828 ) . It was his first full-length narrative, and yet, superior to any full-length narrative that he subsequently wrote.The Scarlet Letterwas a Declaration of American Literary Independence.

The Scarlet Letteropens up with a long debut named “Custom House” . In this, Hawthorne has written a partial autobiographical study covering three old ages of his life as surveyor in the Salem custom-house ( 1846-49 ) .

Hawthorne begins the custom-house debut by bespeaking the reader to bear with his composing accomplishments. He tells us about himself & A ; his station because he feels the demand to explicate how the undermentioned pages of the Scarlet Letter came to be written. He merely considers himself an editor & A ; claims that he has merely given the narrative a few excess touches to give as existent a image of the 17Thursdaycentury Puritan New England society as was possible for him.

Salem is Hawthorne’s native town which he confesses that he loves merely when he goes off from it. This is the topographic point where his original ascendant William Hawthorne came about two & As ; a one-fourth centuries ago. In Salem, William’s posterities have been born & A ; have died. Salem has been the focal centre of the Hawthorne’s. He so mentions the sea traveling tradition for over a hundred old ages in his household. Subsequently, Hawthorne negotiations about his return to Salem where he was given the occupation in custom-house. He so gives us a pen study of the venerable old functionaries of the custom-house.

Climax of the custom-house debut negotiations about its 2nd narrative which was a big room in which the brick work & A ; the beams have ne’er been covered with plasters which was left as it was when the port was shifted from Salem to Boston. In this room, in the thick of other rubbish, Hawthorne found a package with a shred of fabric on which the missive A was embroided. With this fabric was a papers written by surveyor Pue, his predecessor, which told the history of the vermilion missive and its carrier Hester. When Hawthorne lost his imposts station, he determined to compose a fictional history of the events recorded in the manuscript.The Scarlet Letteris the result.

The narrative begins in seventeenth-century Boston, so a Puritan colony. A great bookman of advanced age named Roger sends his immature married woman Hester Prynne to a little small town in Boston for purchasing a house & A ; intended to follow her. But he was detained by Red Indians for two old ages. After the completion of two old ages of imprisonment when he comes to Boston, he finds that the crowd of Boston was waiting before the gate of the local prison. Soon the gate opened & A ; his married woman Hester comes out with a kid of 3 months in her weaponries. She was charged with the wickedness of criminal conversation. The magistrates ordered her to stand at a raised platform in the market topographic point & A ; wear the stigma ( grade of shame ) of the vermilion missive ‘A’ ( extramarital ) .

The Puritan Boston followed morality purely & A ; for them misdemeanor of morality was every bit good as misdemeanor of jurisprudence. Adultery was punishable with decease. The magistrates had taken commiseration on the immature adult female & A ; allowed her to populate but she was to have on the ‘A’ as a grade of societal shame. She was asked to give the name of evildoer but she refused & A ; was ready to confront the torment all entirely. She was sent back to the prison. While standing on the platform in the market topographic point, Hester recognised her hubby in the crowd. Her hubby visited her in the prison as a doctor to bring around her & A ; her kid from hurting & A ; restlessness. Hester was shocked & amp ; thought that to seek retaliation he will kill the kid every bit good as her. But he told her that he had no such purpose. It was his error to get married a immature & amp ; beautiful miss in advanced age & A ; for that he would forgive her. But he could non forgive the evildoer who had wronged both of them. So he wanted her to give him his individuality & A ; unwrap the name of the evildoer. But she told that she could non compel him. He told Hester that in that instance he would happen him on his ain as he searched truth in books. He told her that he wanted to maintain his individuality disclosed. Hester swore & A ; he assumed a new name Roger Chillingworth.

Roger was a great bookman of natural philosophies and during his imprisonment with Red Indians, he studied several herbs which could bring around human complaints. Boston needed such a doctor and he establishes himself in the town and large or little took him as a blessing to the Puritan community of the town. Father Arthur Dimmesdale was a immature and popular priest of the town. He was a spiritual adult male and considered by the people as a true psyche. His discourses were popular and praised by people of the full country. He ever kept his bosom protected by a piece of fabric & A ; his right manus. In class of clip he began to experience the hurting & A ; his wellness deteriorated.

Chillingworth befriended him & A ; started giving him medical intervention. As his status worsened it was considered proper that the doctor & A ; Dimmesdale should populate together so that Dr. Roger could decently name. In class of observation Roger comes to the decision that the complaint was concerned with the spirit of the reverend & A ; so he requested him to let him to analyze his spirit & A ; psyche. The priest objected & A ; told him that human psyche was God’s concern ; hence he won’t let a adult male to stand between his psyche & A ; God.

Dr. Roger gets leery & A ; one twenty-four hours he enters his room when he was asleep & A ; examines his bosom. It gave him diabolic pleasance for he had seen the secret vermilion missive ‘A’ on his thorax & A ; found the evildoer. He subjects him to mental anguish & A ; the priest was virtually driven to madness. Hester can non digest the torment of Dimmesdale & A ; informs him that his friend was his enemy. She reveals that Roger was her hubby. He was merely be aftering Dimmesdale’s ruin for retaliation. She asks the priest to get away from that topographic point.

By this clip, Hester & A ; Arthur’s girl Pearl has grown up as a seven old ages old kid. For the interest of the girl, Dimmesdale foremost refused to get away but so agreed to her program. Roger comes to cognize about their program. The wellness of the priest was doing anxiousness to him daily.

On the Election Day the town crowd was to be seen in the streets & A ; a emanation was arranged. Arthur was called upon to give his last discourse to the people. While traveling to the market topographic point he stops near the same raised platform where seven twelvemonth ago Hester was humiliated publicly. He asked Hester & A ; Pearl to assist him make the platform. He impetuously climbs up the scaffold with his lover and his girl, and confesses publically, exposing the ‘A’ seared into the flesh of his thorax. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him.

Chillingworth dies a twelvemonth subsequently. Hester and Pearl leave Boston, and no 1 knows about them. Many old ages subsequently, Hester returns entirely, still have oning the vermilion missive, to populate in her old bungalow and restart her charitable work. She sometime receives letters from Pearl, who has settled with a European blue blood. When Hester dies, she is buried following to Arthur. The two portion a individual gravestone, which bears a vermilion ‘A’ .

Chapter- IIThe Psychology of Sin

The narrative ofThe Scarlet Letteris a show of how the American Puritan society was so. Harmonizing to that Puritan society Hester has sinned irreclaimable wickedness and therefore she was punished and had to have on her badge of shame which will remind her of her guilt. Besides the presence of her girl, the consequence of this wickedness will do her realize of her guilt. The puritan society asserts its authorization over the single scruples by coercing Hester to accept her penalty. But who gave this right to the society to judge whether Hester was a evildoer or non? Hester herself had developed a sympathetic intuition about evildoers in Boston and that she could understand wickedness in people in whom it was to be the least expected. At the beginning of the narrative, it is the most defeated people who are the most vocal critics of Hester. It shows that a Boston Puritan Society that is non capable of judging Hester because all its members are iniquitous in one manner or the other.

Hester was in a place in which she may hold offended a societal or moral codification but so hold the others, like Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, Bellingham and other nameless people. Therefore, if a whole society is corrupt or iniquitous, the person whose scruples makes him make his repentance is sensitive to morality and he has his ain personal morality as against the morality of a whole society. In chapter XIV, when Chillingworth tells Hester that the Puritans are be aftering to inquire her non to have on the vermilion missive any longer, she says that it is non for the community to make up one’s mind when to slake her penalty which is as mental and psychological as it is societal. She may still have on the missive “A” , but the significance of the word has now changed from “Adulteress” to “Able” or “Angel” . With her forbearance, bravery, and humbleness, allied to good workss, Hester proves that she is every bit good as anybody else. She has been true to her ain self-ordained penalty. She is the 1 who feels her wickedness both through the vermilion missive and the kid Pearl, but she ne’er tortures herself as Dimmesdale does. Hester may be was afraid of the unfavorable judgment received from her hubby every bit good as from the society and this implies that someplace or the other she was accepting herself as a evildoer in her head. But so she has a private morality which is non inferior to the societal morality of the Puritans.

Puritan society of Boston was a theocracy ; it was a spiritual every bit good as a political organisation. Those persons who defied or belie the norms of the society were seen as a menace as they might do lawlessness in the society which itself was seeking to set itself in a new state in which there was danger from the Red Indians, the Spaniards and from the Nature. The offense that Hester has committed is over before the narrative inThe Scarlet LetterBegins. In this sense,The Scarlet Lettertherefore, trades non with the offense and penalty of the wickedness but with the consequence of a peculiar wickedness on a group of people, be it a psychological, societal or political consequence. Externally the penalty of Hester and Dimmesdale is symbolized by the instrument of society- the prison-house, the pillory, the scaffold, the dais, the vermilion letter- but internally, that is, psychologically the penalty is a affair of the single scruples. Hester suffers internally and in order to accept her penalty internally and spiritually she refuses to give up on both Pearl and the vermilion missive. This shows her willingness to rectify herself by accepting the fiddling penalty given by the society. Dimmesdale besides suffers with awful torment in secretiveness. His anguished scruples forces him to invent ways and agencies to play out his penalty in private. He keeps vigil, fasts and whips himself. His wont of covering his bosom with his manus signifies his soundless confession of him being a evildoer.

The inquiry of wickedness and salvation is non a societal but a spiritual inquiry. The calamity happened with both the characters is non merely a legal penalty sanctioned by their Puritan society, but besides a penalty much worse than that as their scrupless prick them ever. They may be the felons by the criterions of the Boston Puritans, but they fundamentally think of themselves as “sinners” , that is, alienated from “God” or “conscience” . Crime and penalty are, hence merely an external cause and consequence ; while wickedness and regeneration are internal strong beliefs, a psychological province. The vermilion missive every bit good as the Pearl, both are the symbols of her wickedness and these two helped her instead assisted her in accomplishing salvation, if non in the eyes of the society so at least in the eyes of God. Hester victory over her destiny with her goodness and resoluteness. In this sense, she achieves a religious triumph over her society. Dimmesdale besides passes through a similar crisis. He does non endure publically as a condemnable, but his natural scruples chafes him into changeless self-torment through self-laceration and chagrin.


From legion points of position Dimmesdale endures the most in all angles. His encephalon is ever sing his evildoing and its results and it appears that he is ne’er free from the mental impacts of his error. He contemplates it unrelentingly and even joins his sentiments into his discourses so others can leave ( yet inadvertently ) in his evildoing and inward torture. Like Hester, he is continually combating with his considerations. While it is clear that he is sing the impacts of his hidden wickedness in his mind, his organic structure to boot starts to keep up under the burden besides. Aside from the manner that he overly bears a missive of his ain toward the terminal, physically, his organic structure starts to show the impacts of wickedness as he develops weaker. His construction developed more anorectic ; his voice, nevertheless still rich and sweet, had a certain despairing anticipation of putrefaction in it ; he was often seen, on any sight qui vive or sudden bad luck, to set his manus over his bosom, with first a flower and afterward a whiteness, feature of aching. While this is a physical visual aspect of his incrimination and inward convulsion, the manner that he develops of all time more slender is immense in visible radiation of the fact that it is typical of his spirit being tormented besides. His spirit is invariably emptied and he thinks of it as pervert in visible radiation of his evildoing. Therefore he is similar to an empty adult male ; both indoors and every bit far as how he looks. Dissimilar to Hester and Chillingworth, he feels that the greatest issue identified with his incorrect making is the impact on his endless psyche. The manner that Dimmesdale base on ballss on toward the terminal of the narrative makes it clear that he was digesting significantly more than either Hester or Roger Chillingworth. While Roger bites the dust every bit good, it is more in visible radiation of obliteration alternatively of the crisp internal torture the reverend feels. He was being expended, as a chief precedence, organic structure, and psyche by the impacts of wickedness since he was non able to be similar to Hester and Roger and admit his error for what it was, in malice of the torture it may in some instances cause.

Hester and Dimmesdale are disconnected as a consequence of the first wickedness, Chillingworth by the longing for requital in his bosom, and Pearl in visible radiation of the fact that her elfin-like nature and her steady hostility at the town childs who fake at and deride her female parent. Every one of them is a societal foreigner, populating in an existence of his or her with the barest correspondence with the outside universe. However this withdrawal is non without its specializer penchants For Hester ‘s state of affairs, her Isolation is her “ emblem of shame ” . The Scarlet missive removes her from others. In any instance it helps her ethical and mental development. She “ transcends her division from society by great workss and the chumminess of hopeless persons ” . For Dimmesdale ‘s state of affairs, his affectability to his evildoing makes him cognizant of his unworthiness to take his clock. It prompts private enduring and torture. He feels suffocated in this nature ‘s sphere, yet is so frail it is non possible effort to have in return. Pass is his merely rescue. Chillingworth ‘s separation is fundamentally the privacy of an person who has been wronged by his married woman and his pursuit for requital. He has damaged the sanctity of the human bosom – both on history of Hester and Dimmesdale. This prompts his profound privacy and passing. Persons see the Devil incarnate in the crookback physician. Pearl is a free psyche, overly capricious to be secured to anything. This is her separation. She is a outcast child who plays with soulless points or with animals, watercourses and blossom a casualty of the evildoing of her defenders and, the badness of the Puritan civilization. Inevitably she symbolizes merely beam of trust and leaves the colony for greener grazing lands where she settles down.

None of the cardinal characters in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne have the capacity be wholly free from the impacts of wickedness. While they each one agreement with the results of wickedness in diverse classs, none of them of all time still look ready to wholly suit themselves with their evildoing. Hester does in the terminal proceed onward and Pearl turns into a win yet there is still a shadow over her. Her life would hold been wholly diverse in the event if she had non decided to remain in a town that had denounced her by and large as Chillingworth and Roger may non hold passed on if they could hold made peace with their evildoing and existed in an unexpected manner. The issue of wickedness is at the bosom of this novel and through these three rule characters it is imaginable to see what the impacts of wickedness can be and what the consequence of life with it may be.

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