Essays

The novel, The Scarlet Letter

The virtue of truth and the evil of secret sin are clearly illustrated in the novel, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The three main characters in this novel display their own honesty and sins. Hester Prynne exhibits the essence of truth and pride when she bravely faces the humiliation of the scaffold. In chapter 17, when Hester apologizes to Dimmesdale about concealing Chillingworths identity, she says, In all things else, I have striven to be true!

Truth was the one virtue which I might have held, and did hold fast, through all extremityA lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side (pg. 202)! It is Hesters pride, which sustains her from the beginning of the novel to the end, when she dies, still sporting the scarlet A on her bosom. Hesters sin is the sin which gives the book its title and around which the action of the book resolves. Adultery, which was prohibited by the Seventh Amendment, was usually punished by death.

A woman in the crowd stated, At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynnes forheadShe may cover it (the scarlet letter) with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever (pg. 53)! Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale shows truth by his occupation. People living in Boston, Massachusetts looked up to and respected Dimmesdale because he was a minister. One of his sins was his inability to publicly acknowledge that he committed adultery with Hester and that he is the father of Pearl, Hesters daughter.

However, adultery was not his biggest sin. His biggest sin is hypocrisy. In chapter ten, he speaks of the concealment of his sins, he says, It may be that they are kept silent by the very constistution of their nature. Or-can we not suppose it-guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for Gods glory and mans welfareno evil of the past be redeemed by better service (pg. 137). While trying to conceal his sins, they take over his conscience and literally confess themselves during his acts of madness.

The third main character, Roger Chillingworth, is a pretty innocent man in the beginning of this book. He comes to America to be reunited with his wife, Hester, but soon comes to find out that she has committed adultery. Chillingworth has however committed two sins also. One of them being against nature. He says, A man already in decay, having given my best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge, -what had I to do with youth and beauty like thine own (pg. 77)! Sin, in actuality, begins to take possession of Chillingworth when he noticed Hester on the scaffold.

Chillingworth eventually destroys himself. As he is talking to Hester in chapter fourteen when he has realized what has happened between Hester and Dimmesdale, he says, Dost thou remember me? Was I not, though you might deem me cold, nevertheless a man thoughtful for others, craving little for himself, -kind, true, just, and of constant, if not warm affections? Was I not all this (pg. 180)? As shown in the novel, each individual character displayed both senses of truth and evil. Some were less severe than others, but still sins. Overall, a lesson of purity is developed throughout the book.

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