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The Lasting Effect of Sin and Guilt on Hester and Dimmesdale

Uploaded by rdsox24455 on Oct 31, 2006

Without an honorable reputation a person is not worthy of respect from others in their society. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the struggle to shake off the past is an underlying theme throughout the novel. Characters in this novel go through their lives struggling with trying to cope with the guilt and shame associated with actions that lost them their honorable reputation. Particularly, Hawthorne shows the lasting effect that sin and guilt has on two of the main characters in the book: Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale.

Hester Prynne's guilt is the result of her committing adultery, which has a significant effect on her life. Hester is publicly seen with the scarlet letter when she first emerges out of the cold dark prison. "It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself" (49). The spell that is mentioned is the scarlet letter, "so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom" (49). The scarlet letter is what isolates her from everyone else because it symbolizes sin. Hester is in her very own sphere, where her sin affects her livelihood and has completely cut her off from the world. Her entrance into the sphere marks the beginning of her guilt and it occurs when she is in the prison after her first exposure to the crowd. The prison marks the beginning of a new life for Hester, a life full of guilt and seclusion. Her problem is that her shame is slowly surfacing while she faces the crowd realizing that she has been stripped of all her pride and everything that was important to her in the past. The lasting effect of Hester's sin is the shame that she now embodies due to her committing adultery. The shame that is associated with Hester's iniquity remains with her as an everlasting reminder of her sinful actions. Guilt is a consequence of sin that Hester has to endure throughout her life and her remorse starts to have a profound effect on her life and thinking.

Hester's shame does become very influential in her life making her unable to express herself freely. "Hester Prynne might have repaid them all with a bitter and disdainful smile. But under the leaden infliction which it was her doom to endure, she felt at moments as if she must needs to shriek" (52-53)....

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Uploaded by:   rdsox24455

Date:   10/31/2006

Category:   The Scarlet Letter

Length:   6 pages (1,443 words)

Views:   7533

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