The Scarlet Letter Research Paper
This paper delves into themes related to sin and acceptance.
The Scarlet Letter delves into numerous aspects related to guilt, society, the self as well as an assortment of varying themes related to sex and the Puritan way of life at the time
(Hawthorne, 1850). However, despite all this I believe that the Scarlet Letter is a form of social commentary in that it delves into the positive and negative aspects that pervaded Puritan society at the time that people either did not know about or turned a blind eye towards such actions. The novel thus presents the notion that the concepts of sin and acceptance are viewed and experienced differently by different people.
Form of Social Commentary
When examining the novel, it becomes clear that the writing style and the way in which the author delves into the Puritan way of life seemingly shows the double standards that existed at the time. For example, while the character of Hester is slated for punishment for being an adulterer, little is mentioned regarding the man she had sexual relations with. From the way in which she was described and the manner that the people acknowledge her as, it appears that all of the fault is attributed to her.
This I believe was an intentional aspect of the novel on the part of the author to depict how women received “the shorter end of the stick” so to speak when it came to living within such a society. In fact, it was the character of Roger Chillingworth (the husband of Hester who was thought of as dead) who was the first to voice the unfairness of only Hester being condemned for the crime with little to no attempt at actually finding the person she slept with.
Another aspect to take into consideration is the fact that the Reverend Dimmesdale was revealed towards the latter half of the novel as the father of Hester’s child. Yet, what is curious is that while Hester was able to withstand being labeled as an adulterer, Dimmesdale actually progressively got worse throughout the novel despite him not revealing his secret until the end.
Sin and Acceptance
The reason why Dimmesdale and Hester had different reactions to the sin they committed was due to the varying ways in which they chose to accept it. In the case of Hester she chose to own up to her sin and instead of taking the easy way out through suicide she chose to work as a seamstress to support her daughter.
In the case of Dimmesdale he chose to keep it bottled up inside and continued to suffer as a direct result of what he perceived as a moral sin. It is at this juncture that it can be seen that the novel apparently questions the true impact of sin and morality wherein it shows that acceptance of an act and moving forward from it changes the perception of sin (as seen in the case of Hester) as compared to internalizing it and continuously blaming oneself ( as seen in the case of the Reverend).
In fact, the concept of sin and acceptance in order to move on can be considered a crucial part of the novel as exemplified by the deaths of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth wherein their refusal to accept and move on killed them in the end as compared to Hester who accepted her sin and bore it proudly who in the end had a somewhat happy ending.
Overall, it can be stated that the novel is an excellent social commentary of the state of society at the time and reveals how the refusal to own up to a sin can literally eat a person from within and cause their death.
Hawthorne, N. (1850). The Scarlet Letter. New York: Ticknor, Reed & Fields.
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Abstract This paper delves into themes related to sin and acceptance. Introduction The Scarlet Letter delves into numerous aspects related to guilt, society, the self as well as an assortment […]