Effects Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter In Adams fall, we sinned all. This old Sunday-school saying applies well to Nathaniel Hawthornes characters in The Scarlet Letter. The main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, as well as the townspeople, all sinned. The 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 Prynnes sin was adultery.
This sin was regarded very seriously by the Puritans, and was often punished by death. Hesters 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 Hesters sin, he considers it less serious than those of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. Hesters sin was a sin of passion. This sin was openly acknowledged as she wore the A on her chest. Hester did not commit the greatest sin of the novel.
She did not deliberately mean to commit her sin or mean to hurt others. Hesters 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! 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, her 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 Chillingworths real identity, having kept 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–thy fame–were put in question! Then I consented a deception. But a lie is never good, even though death threaten the other side! Even though Hesters 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 of 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 ones–and they had made her strong..
Hester also deceived Dimmesdale, also committing the sin of deception. She swore to Chillingworth that she would keep their marriage a secret. She even withheld this from Dimmesdale, whom she truly loved. Hester finally insisted on telling Dimmesdale and clearing her conscience. In this passage, you can see how he grows angry at Hester: O Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame!–the indelicacy!–the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this! I cannot forgive thee! Dimmesdale does forgive Hester.
She has done the right thing in telling him. Her sin of deception is then lifted off her chest. Hesters vow of truth is then kept. Arthur Dimmesdales sin was the same as Hesters. He is Hesters silent partner in crime, the guilty one who has confessed nothing in order to save himself.
Actually, Dimmesdale is a coward, a man who is too weak to confess his guilt, even though he desires to greatly. As a way of self-punishment, Dimmesdale has created a supposed A on his own chest by beating himself. Dimmesdale has committed the crime of hypocrisy. He is a minister and every week gets up on his pulpit to hear his congregations sins. Somehow, Dimmesdale is too weak to confess his own sin.
By hiding it, his sin becomes even worse; its now a concealed sin. Dimmesdale pleads with Hester, while she is sentenced on the scaffold, to confess his guilt. I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him–yea compel him, as it were–to add hypocrisy to sin? Dimmesdales guilt is overwhelming. He must act as if nothing has happened.
He remains silent so that he can continue to do Gods work as a minister. Throughout the seven years of the novel, Dimmesdales sermons get more and more tantalizing the weaker he grows. He must wear one face for the world, another for himself. Dimmesdale is trying to excuse his behavior, when his soaring career may be a justification for concealing a sin. He is struggling to confess, and in each sermon, he comes closer and closer to doing so. He is also under pressure from Chillingworth, who has brought Dimmesdale almost to the point of insanity.
His guilt is heightened when he sees Hester suffer alone with the sin he was a part of. It seems to be Dimmesdales nature that has led him to be a coward. Speaking with Dimmesdale, you could discern his guilt in underlying meanings, or even directly, from what he says. ..it may be that they are kept silent by the very constitution of their nature. Or–can we not suppose it?–guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for Gods glory and mans welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men …