Scarlet Letter – Dangers of Hidden Sin
Sin is something society has had to deal with since mankind has known evil. In most circumstances, the sin only becomes a problem when it is kept within and manifests into something larger than it was in the first place. Keeping secrets is a detriment to ones life, which in a larger picture affects a whole society. In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, secret sin is a predominant theme, which in this novel leads to changes in both emotional and physical being. In the early days of the Massachusetts colony, they are neither welcoming nor accepting of sin or different ideas and are wary of anything that may topple their pristine atmosphere. Evil should never be kept secret because it always leaves a mark.
Hester Prynne hides a significant amount of sin inside of herself, which only adds to sins that have been made an issue of public interest. Committing adultery is Hesters announced sin, and all her secret sins are results of this one instance. A sin, which is closely related to her sin of adultery, is who the father of Pearl is. She refuses to tell even under extreme pressure, I will not speak! And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one (47). We later learn that the father is Arthur Dimmesdale, and these miscommunications cause a barrier between them. Her refusal consequently denies any hope of reconciliation between the two for an extensive period. Hester also conceals that Roger Chillingworth is her husband. This pains her because she must helplessly watch his evil ways take toll on Dimmesdale. However, Chillingworths punishment of Dimmesdale goes against he and Hesters agreement. Hester promised to keep both Chillingworth and Dimmesdales identities hidden or Chillingworth would seek out Hesters secret lover, Dimmesdale, and kill him. Hester causes the townspeople to become forgiving people by her many good deeds; this changes the A symbol on her dress to become perceived as a symbol for Angel rather than Adultery.
Arthur Dimmesdale lives a life of hidden sin and he changes because of it. He too has a committed adultery, but due to his position in society he does not need to suffer the wrath of society. His sin leads him to torture himself in various ways. This self-torture is something that leads from guilt of keeping secrets, these actions show that Dimmesdale is does feel guilty for his sin. The only good that comes out of his torture is that his sermons improve. After Dimmesdales Election Day speech, the general opinion of the town was that never had man spoken in so wise, so high and so holy a spirit as he that spake this day (170). The respect from the town only gives Dimmesdale, in his eyes, another reason to torture himself. This self-torture causes a physical change to occur also, which includes a change, which thickens the plot of the novel. Dimmesdales intolerable suffering eventually end in a breakdown in front of the town, which then leads to his death.
Pearl Prynne is swept up in this web of deceit and sin; however she is innocent. She is considered An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin(64) She bears Hester and Dimmesdales shame by just being alive. Pearl sees the truth in life and when she is denied the truths she is angry. When Dimmesdale refuses to accept the fatherly position when Pearl asked him to stand upon the scaffolding with her and Hester she is annoyed. Her anger is visible when Pearl wipes off a kiss that Dimmesdale gave her. Pearl has been isolated and therefore lacks social skills. She is also mishevious and disobedient for the same reason. Pearl does not change until the very end of the book; only once Dimmesdale has confessed that he is Pearls father. And as if feeling an intense connection with Dimmesdale, she suddenly becomes a caring child. This connection of knowing the truth is what cleansed her soul and rid her of the devil. A loving child results from this opportunity and in many years she is wed to a royal in a European country.
Roger Chillingworth is often made to be the root of evil in the story. He is repeatedly referred to as old Black Man(92), which is the devil. Chillingworth is the physician of the town and is highly respected. Chillingworth is the character with vengeance. He is Hesters husband and yet shelters, while torturing, Dimmesdale. This makes him involved in every aspect of their lives. He also appears to know that Dimmesdale is Pearls father. He tortures Dimmesdale more and more, breaking him down part by part. Chillingworth is definitely the true evil character in this book. His evil surpasses all the sin that both Hester and Dimmesdale have. He has prevented them from having a happy life by haunting their every day lives. Chillingworth eventually dies a year after Dimmesdale because he has no one to leach off. His inheritance is left to Pearl which gives Pearl and Hester there chance to leave and search for better lives. This is the one good thing Chillingworth has done throughout the whole novel.
Hawthorne demonstrates that people who leave sin inside can end up with terrible health and mental condition. Guilt is a very powerful emotion. It festers in our minds and hearts of everyone who is or has ever done something wrong. As long as there is sin and guilt there will be different reactions to it. Some people may hide it, some may embrace it, and then there are those who will rot from it. The predominant moral lesson of the book is that no matter what occurs, there is never a need to keep it bottled up for it to worsen.
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