Guilt As Reparation For Sin In The
Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper
Guilt as Reparation for Sin in The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a novel about a Puritan woman who has committed adultery and must pay for her sin by wearing a scarlet A on her bosom. The woman, Hester Prynne, must struggle through everyday life with the guilt of her sin. The novel is also about the suffering that is endured by not admitting to one s wrongs. Reverend Mister Dimmesdale learns that secrecy only makes the guilt increase. Nathaniel Hawthorne is trying to display how guilt is the everlasting payment for sinful actions. The theme of guilt as reparation for sin in The Scarlet Letter is revealed through Nathaniel Hawthorne s use of northeastern, colonial settings, various conflicts, and characters that must live with guilt for the sins they have committed.
Nathaniel Hawthorne s elaborately descriptive writing style has been studied and criticized by people all over the world for years. Hawthorne has been thought of as one of the greatest writers in history, but his unique style has also been negatively criticized and disapproved of. No matter the opinion of his works, the people who knew him personally respected Hawthorne. On the day after Hawthorne s funeral, in May 1864, [Ralph Waldo] Emerson wrote in his journal: I thought him a greater man than any of his works betray (Martin 37). Hawthorne, however, was not so well thought of by people who did not know him well. Someone who would rather be creative and write than have a real job was not very well respected in Hawthorne s day. A writer who wrote fictional tales was even less respected than an author who wrote of actual events was. These unjustified opinions of writers influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne throughout his life and career in creative writing.
Another issue that influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne was his ancestry. His family had spent five generations in Salem. A couple of Nathaniel s ancestors of whom he was especially ashamed were William and John Hathorne. William Hathorne was a Puritan who showed fierce prejudice against the Quakers. He ordered a public beating for Ann Coleman s punishment, and she almost died consequently (Shepherd iv). John Hathorne was a judge who sentenced many people to death during the Salem witch trials. He was the
Judge Hathorne spoken of in Miller s The Crucible. It is believed that Nathaniel added the w to his last name in an effort to distance him from these historical ancestors (Shepherd vi).
Nathaniel Hawthorne (originally spelled Hathorne ) was born to Elizabeth Clarke Manning Hathorne and Nathaniel Hathorne in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804. He was the second child and the only son of the Hathornes three children. When Nathaniel was four, his father came down with yellow fever and died in Surinam, Dutch Guiana. After his father s death, Mrs. Hathorne moved her family into her parents house in Salem (Shepherd iv). At the age of nine, Nathaniel Hathorne suffered an injury to his legs that kept him from attending school for about two years. This injury was a blessing in disguise. During his recovery, Nathaniel read many books and developed an appreciation for the English classics. Bunyan s Pilgrim Progress and Spenser s Faerie Queene seem to have been his favorite books because he had two cats named Beelzebub and Apollyon, characters from Bunyan (Martin 17). Hawthorne later named his first child Una, after Spenser s heroine (Martin 17).
Hawthorne would spend the rest of his childhood in Raymond, Maine, hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors. He returned to Salem for schooling and worked as a bookkeeper for his Uncle s stagecoach line (Martin 17). He entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1821. He made some very impressive acquaintances during college, meeting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Horatio Bridge, and Franklin Pierce. These friends will prove to be beneficial to Nathaniel in his authorial career. During college, Nathaniel added the w to his last name (Shepherd vi).
About three years after Hawthorne graduates from college, he publishes his first book. Fanshawe is a romance novel. Out of dissatisfaction with the novel, he collects and burns all of the copies of this book that he can find shortly after its release. He also burns Seven Tales of My Native Land, a collection of short stories he began work on while in college. Two years after his failure as a publisher, Hawthorne has five of his stories published in the Salem Gazette. In 1834, some of Hawthorne s stories are published in New England Magazine. From 1836 until 1842 Hawthorne lives in Boston. He is given the job of editor of a short-lived magazine entitled The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. One of Hawthorne s works that was published in 1837, Endicott and the Red Cross, first displayed the theme that would become The Scarlet Letter (Cowley 289). While living in Boston, Hawthorne meets Sophia Amelia Peabody and
becomes engaged to her in 1838. In 1842, Hawthorne and Sophia marry and move to Concord, Massachusetts, where they rent a house called the Old Manse from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nathaniel and Sophia s first child, a girl named Una, is born in 1844. Una proves to be the basis for Pearl s character in The Scarlet Letter (290). The Hawthornes move to Salem in 1845. Shortly after moving to Salem, in 1846, Mosses from an Old Manse is published and receives good reviews. In addition, during the year of 1846, Hawthorne is appointed surveyor of customs in Salem. President James Polk appoints Hawthorne to this position. The year 1846 proved to be a good year for Hawthorne for along with his critically acclaimed book and new job, his first son, Julian is born (Shepherd vii).
The better-known part of Hawthorne s life begins in 1849 when he loses his job at the custom house. He begins work on The Scarlet Letter and The Custom-House. (Shepherd vii). Hawthorne wanted it to be known that he was employed outside of his writing. In Hawthorne s time one had to have a real job to earn the respect of society. Hawthorne also wanted to make the story of the scarlet letter seem factual. He wrote in The Custom-House of how he found a letter describing the events of Hester Prynne s life along with the actual scarlet A . No evidence has been found to support the statement that the document or the actual A really exists. Hawthorne may have been trying to make his work seem that it was based in fact so that people would not view him as an immature writer of fictional fantasies and tales.
On the morning of June 8, 1849, he came home to announce that he had been discharged from his surveyorship by the Whig administration. Oh, then, his wife cried, you can write your book! When he asked her where the family s bread and rice would come from, she opened a drawer and showed him the savings she had made from her household allowance. One story is that he started The Scarlet Letter that afternoon (Cowley 290). His most successful work, The Scarlet Letter, is published in 1850. Hawthorne moves to Lenox, Massachusetts and acquaints himself with Herman Melville directly after his publication. The next year, Hawthorne publishes The House of the Seven Gables and his second daughter and third child, Rose, is born. Hawthorne s The Blithedale Romance is published and Hawthorne buys a house in Concord, which he names The Wayside in 1852. In addition, in 1853, he writes a campaign biography of his former classmate and presidential candidate Franklin Pierce. After the election, President Pierce appoints Hawthorne to the position of American consul at Liverpool, England. Nathaniel and his family move to Liverpool. He
serves as consul until 1857 when he resigns and moves to Rome, Italy. The family eventually moves to Florence, where Hawthorne begins work on a romance, which is completed in England. The Marble Fawn, Hawthorne s Italian romance, is published in 1860 and the family moves back to The Wayside in Concord. Hawthorne publishes one major work entitled Our Old Home before his death in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He died in 1864 while travelling with former President and good friend Franklin Pierce (Shepherd vii).
The theme of The Scarlet Letter is that guilt is reparation for sin. All of the major characters and events in the novel revolve around guilt. The characters display the guilt they feel because of the sinful actions they have committed. Roger Chillingworth, Hester s husband, feels guilty for marrying Hester despite the fact that the two did not love each other. Unlike other characters in the book, guilt is not Chillingworth s major motivation. His obsession with revenge against Hester s lover drives him to do the things he does. Hester Prynne feels guilt for her sin of adultery and for the circumstances into which her child must be born. Reverend Mister Arthur Dimmesdale is Hester s fellow adulterer. He feels guilt because he has shared in Hester s passionate sin and because he will not admit to the sinful act and receive the punishment that he deserves. Hester will not reveal the name of her fellow sinner, and Dimmesdale says: What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him yea, compel him, as it were to add hypocrisy to sin? (Hawthorne 62). Due to Pearl s less than admirable conception, she is shunned by society and even by her parents. Pearl is said to be the direct consequence of sin. As the scarlet letter incarnate, Pearl brings both pain and pleasure to Hester (Leary 118). Pearl becomes the scapegoat of her parents guilt and regret.
The settings in The Scarlet Letter are essential to the overall mood and tone of the novel. The action of the novel takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in the early to mid-1600s. The town of Salem is famous for its stern Puritan beliefs and harsh (and often outrageous) punishments. The well-known Salem witch trials took place here. Salem, in the time of the novel, was no Utopia. The first chapter of the novel tells us of the dismal and depressing sights in the center of town: The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison (Hawthorne 42). The jail serves as both a prison and a hospital, following in the Puritan belief that sinners should be punished and at the same time healed of their sin (Kaul 10). The geographic area containing
Massachusetts Bay is referred to by some as the Eastern Woodland Region. The weather of this region is generally cold and damp. These conditions add to the suspense and eerie appeal of the novel by reflecting the actions and emotions of the characters. The unsettled land around Salem was woodland and was considered an evil place by the inhabitants of the city. Puritans considered the forest the Devil s last unsettled preserve; therefore, anything or anyone in the woods was thought of as being evil. For example, the settlers of the Eastern Woodland region feared that the Indians were satanic people because they lived in the forest. Many rumors of witchcraft originated because someone was seen in the forest at night. In The Scarlet Letter, many references are made to the forest as a place of evil. Mistress Hibbins, a known witch, asks both Hester and Dimmesdale to meet her for a midnight rendezvous in the woods. When Hester and Dimmesdale meet each other in the forest to talk, it is in daylight, and they know that no one will see them in the woods. The forest seems to be dark, gloomy, and intimidating to the Puritans, however, it seems welcoming and friendly to Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl. The forest, since it is considered evil, seems to accept those who have sin in their hearts (Kaul 18-19). Pearl is the only of the three who is innocent, and the sun reminds the reader of this when only Pearl is bathed in sunshine in the forest. The sun is a symbol of purity and innocence, whereas the shadows of the forest are symbolic of sin and transgression.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many different conflicts throughout the novel to accentuate the theme. Hester experiences many conflicts at the beginning of the novel before she is released from jail. She is publicly humiliated when she must march through town to the scaffold, then stand on the scaffold in the center of town and present her sin to the entire city. The most terrible part, the truly inhuman aspect, of Hester s fate is not that she is punished publicly but that her punishment takes the form of isolating her from the rest of the community (Kaul 13). Hester s guilt creates an impenetrable barrier, which separates her from the community that will eventually be able to forgive her. This conflict can be classified as man versus society. Hester faces many more conflicts after she is released from the small prison. She enters the town and is
subjected to the glares, condescending remarks, and disapproving stares of the townspeople. These responses from her peers and neighbors trigger the guilt that has been festering inside her since her transgression. She is forced to live in seclusion with little Pearl because she is not accepted by society and everyone shuns her. She chooses to live in seclusion because she cannot bear to face the guilt that waits to rip and tear at her sanity.
This, again, is a man versus society conflict. Hester must also deal with Roger Chillingworth, her husband, before she is released from jail. She can tell that Chillingworth will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her fellow adulterer. This conflict is man versus man. Hester must also deal with Chillingworth after her release from prison. She knows that he is plotting against Arthur Dimmesdale, but she has promised him that she will not reveal his identity. The decision of to whom to pledge her allegiance seems to cause her many complications. A.N. Kaul says: With the insight and freedom she has so painfully won, she succeeds in relieving her lover from the torture of his morbid apprehensions, both of his world and the next, and in showing him the true path to redemption. Heaven would show mercy, she says, hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it (Kaul 17). This means that Hester decides to be faithful to Dimmesdale. She manages to salvage his earthly life as well as his afterlife in heaven. The decision Hester must make is an example of man versus himself. Another example of man versus himself conflict that Hester faces is how to deal with Pearl. Pearl is very emotional and at times seems evil. Hester does not want to punish Pearl for the way she acts because she feels Pearl is punished enough by being the product of her mother s passionate sin. Pearl s suffering only serves to heighten Hester s feeling of guilt. She has caused the destruction of an innocent life by her sinful action, therefore adding to her insurmountable guilt.
The Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale also faces many conflicts. He does not admit the sin he has committed with Hester; therefore, his guilt must be quietly and secretly dealt with. Dimmesdale endures countless sleepless nights because of his inner guilt. He spends all night staring into the mirror and praying for forgiveness. He even whips himself for the sins he has committed. He has lost all signs of vivacity in his personality. His sins include adultery and hypocrisy because he is punishing Hester for the crime he also committed. Dimmesdale speaks to Hester of his inner suffering: Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of seven years cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am! (Hawthorne 182). Dimmesdale s situation here is an example of man versus himself conflict. When he says that it is a relief to see someone who knows him for what he is, he is referring to the false impression his congregation has of him. Dimmesdale s congregation sees him as a sinless saint and a model citizen. When he tries to hint to them that he is not as perfect as they think, the congregation only thinks he is trying to relate to them. He is tempted to
further deceive the people who follow him. Dimmesdale also deals with man versus man conflict when he must stand up to Chillingworth s constant bombardment of guilt-incurring statements. With the worst imaginable motives, Chillingworth is trying to get Dimmesdale to do what the structure and basic conception of the romance clearly indicates he must if he is to save his soul, in any imaginable sense clearly and openly admit his guilt, whatever the consequences (Colacurcio 38). Dimmesdale s struggle with Chillingworth serves the wrong purpose. Dimmesdale fights to do the wrong thing . He fights to keep the truth a secret.
Pearl faces man versus society conflicts when she is shunned and ridiculed by the Puritan society. Pearl s evil attitude toward the other children of the town earns her many bad names. Examples of such names are demon offspring and imp of evil . Hester must feel guilty for creating Pearl only for Pearl to be ridiculed by the townspeople (Ragussis 63). Pearl also faces man versus man conflict when Dimmesdale rejects her and Hester also denies that Pearl is her daughter. So speaking, she [Hester] undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and , taking it from her bosom, threw it to a distance hither verge of the stream. With a hand s breadth further flight, it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook another woe to carry onward, besides the unintelligible tale which it still kept murmuring about (Hawthorne 191). This scene in A Flood of Sunshine is symbolic of Hester rejecting Pearl. It has been said that Pearl actually became a living scarlet letter. By Hester throwing away the adornment, she also throws away Pearl. The brook that flows through the forest, whispering tales of sorrow and woe, is also said to represent Pearl. When Hester throws the symbol of her past seven years suffering into the creek, it displays how Pearl receives all of the blame for Hester s guilt.
Most of the men versus society conflicts in the novel are the result of the Puritan beliefs and customs. Kaul writes, The all-pervasive sense of sin is as important here [in The Scarlet Letter] as it was in the life and thought of the first Puritans (Kaul 10). The Puritans lives were focused on the discovery and punishment of sinners. Puritans, with their concern with the rigid administration of punishment to a criminal and sinner they exhibit the special outlook of a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical (Brodhead 154). Dimmesdale feels that he will never be forgiven because he believes in an unforgiving God. The Puritan society in The Scarlet Letter was also very narrow-minded. The Puritan townspeople saw Pearl as a demon offspring, Hester as the bearer of an infernal light and heat emitting decoration, Dimmesdale as an
angel, and Chillingworth as someone with the right to desecrate the clergyman s soul (170). Hester s suffering is the result of the Puritan custom of administering harsh punishments to sinners. One of the Salem women who witnesses Hester s punishment says The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch that is a truth at the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne s forehead (Hawthorne 46). This shows the Puritans predilections toward extremely harsh punishments. The townspeople s tendency to look down upon those who commit sin can be traced back to the belief of transcendentalism. Hawthorne s satiric portrayal of the Salem community can be accredited to his personal antitranscendentalistic beliefs. His characterization of the townspeople as unforgiving and bloodthirsty individuals serves to heighten the guilt felt by the novel s sinners.
Roger Chillingworth is an erudite, scholarly physician, and Hester s husband. His and Hester s marriage was arranged by Hester s parents, despite the large difference in age of the two. Chillingworth is much older than Hester. The couple did not love each other, but decided to marry anyway. For this, Chillingworth feels guilty. Chillingworth s major sin, the worst sin committed by anyone throughout the novel, was deciding to seek revenge on Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale accuses Chillingworth of the worst sin by saying: He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart (Hawthorne 185). When Chillingworth enters Salem, he sees his wife on the scaffold holding a baby and wearing an adornment of shame on her bosom. He bids her to not reveal his identity and he forgives her for her sin. However, he tells her, he will seek out her fellow sinner. Chillingworth says to Hester: I shall seek this man, as I have sought truth in books; as I have sought gold in alchemy. There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine! (Hawthorne 69). Chillingworth s character undergoes dramatic changes both inside and outside. The evil that he has become on the inside shines through to the outside. Lewis Leary says of Roger Chillingworth: He has been transformed from an earnest, studious, thoughtful man to a fiend whom Hester Prynne observes with a feeling of shock and wonder (Leary 125). Roger Chillingworth never has the chance to exact his revenge on Dimmesdale because the Reverend decides to confess his transgression at the Election Day ceremonies. The leech, because he has devoted his entire life to wreaking fear into the heart of the minister, dies shortly after Dimmesdale. He shows the last bit of humanity he has left when he leaves Pearl a handsome inheritance in his
will. Chillingworth is depicted as the antagonist in this novel due to his infliction of guilt. Chillingworth feels as if he has been designated to deal out God s punishments for the sins of earth. He feels less guilt than most characters in the book, but he is a major cause of the misery in the lives of the other characters.
Hester Prynne is a Puritan woman who displays liberal beliefs in a fiercely conservative environment. Hester objects to many of the Puritan beliefs that are held so dear to her fellow citizens of Salem. As the novel opens, Hester has become pregnant during her passionate act of adultery. She is forced to wear a scarlet A on her chest as a constant reminder of her sin. Her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, also reminds her of the crime she has committed. Hester shows us that she is ashamed of herself and her action when she says, I have thought of death, said she have wished for it would have even prayed for it, were it fit that such as I should pray for anything (Hawthorne 67). Ashamed though she may be, Hester must proceed through her everyday life without succumbing to the townspeople. Lewis Leary states: Hester, clearly, cannot hate her sin. And because of that she can only embrace all that the letter brings to her suffering and joy, solitude, challenge, and a resulting independence of spirit (Leary 119). Hester realizes that she will pay for her sin by feeling the pressure of guilt for a long time. She is doing all that she can to go on with her life and deal with the guilt at the same time.
Reverend Mister Arthur Dimmesdale is Hester s minister and fellow adulterer. He is too afraid to admit his sin as Hester has done. Because he has no outward sign that he has committed a sin (a sign such as Hester s pregnancy), the youthful minister is tempted to conceal his shameful action. He succumbs to this temptation and allows Hester to accept the punishment alone. He also adds hypocrisy to his list of sins because he speaks negatively about Hester when he has been her accomplice. Dimmesdale is compared to an important figure in Greek mythology when Ragussis writes, In the marketplace, Dimmesdale, like Oedipus, calls for the solution of the crime he himself has committed. Knowing that he is the man everyone (himself included) seeks, he is at once a criminal and a hypocrite, a knowing Oedipus” (Ragussis 68). Dimmesdale endures numerous side effects from keeping his sin a secret. His guilty conscience plays tricks on him. An example of Dimmesdale s guilt playing with his mind is evident here: We impute it, therefore, solely to the disease in his own eye and heart, that the minister, looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter the letter A marked out in lines of dull red light. Not but the meteor may have
shown itself at that point, burning duskily through a veil of cloud; but with no such shape as his guilty imagination gave it; or, at least, with so little definiteness, that another s guilt might have seen another symbol in it (Hawthorne 145). Dimmesdale s mental stress causes a physical deterioration. The minister s health greatly deteriorates over the two years from Hester s public humiliation to their next meeting at the Governor s mansion. This decline in Dimmesdale s physical well being is caused by the guilt from the sin he and Hester shared (101). The minister is also causing Pearl, his daughter, pain by not accepting her as his child. Pearl knows that Dimmesdale is her father, but he rejects her. This causes some spiteful actions from Pearl toward Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale is also untruthful to his congregation at the Salem church. Dimmesdale remembers his sin every time he sees respect and admiration in the eyes of his congregation. He feels sorry that he has not been as holy as his followers think he has been. He wishes that he had an outward sign such as Hester s scarlet A so that he would no longer be able to deceive the people (181-182). Dimmesdale s guilt and suffering only increase with the introduction of Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth has one goal in his life, and that is to cause Dimmesdale to collapse under the intense psychological pressure and guilt he receives from adultery.
The young minister is tortured mercilessly and eventually decides that he must confess to his sin. However, he is still afraid of what would happen to him. The minister travels to the scaffold and stands before an imaginary audience in order to pay for his sin. This payment, however, does not suffice. The pain that he feels over this heart remains. His guilt can not be easily forgotten (139). Dimmesdale finds courage during the final scaffold scene. He finally does what he should have done all along (Leary 116-117). He confesses his sin to the world, thus spoiling Chillingworth s revenge. Confessing drains the last bit of life out of Dimmesdale, and he dies on the scaffold in the arms of his lover, Hester Prynne.
Pearl is the only innocent character in the novel. The offspring of sin, the reader instantly sympathizes with the child. She is shunned by the town and is denied a father throughout the entire story. At times, even Hester denies that Pearl is her daughter. Pearl may be resentful toward both of her parents because they at times have disowned her (Ragussis 62). Pearl reminds both Hester and Dimmesdale of their sins. The sun in the forest falls around Pearl and runs from Hester and Dimmesdale, presenting a barrier between the sinners and the innocent offspring of that sin (Hawthorne 192-194). Pearl was, however, loved by Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester says to the Governor: Nevertheless, this badge hath taught me, –it daily
teaches me,–it is teaching me at this moment,–lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself (Hawthorne 102). By this, Hester means that it is too late for her to be forgiven, but Pearl will learn from her mother s experiences and never be in Hester s situation. Displaying Pearl s genetic ties to Dimmesdale, Ragussis says, Pearl, as the first initial of some hidden word or name, is an abbreviated form of her father, just as the face she sees in the mirroring brook (as Dimmesdale fears) traces her father s features and is thereby capable of revealing him as Hester s fellow transgressor (Ragussis 65). Pearl proves that she loves her father by not telling anyone that he is her father. Because Pearl has committed no sin, she is the ultimate heroine in the novel. She overcomes the adversity of her birth to eventually be accepted by her father. She is also left a great deal of money when Chillingworth passes away, and it is believed that she grew up to marry well and lead a happy and productive life. Pearl is the only character in the novel that is not affected by her own guilt. However, the guilt of the other characters shapes and molds Pearl s life by influencing the other character s thoughts and actions.
The theme of guilt as reparation for sin in The Scarlet Letter is revealed through Nathaniel Hawthorne s use of northeastern, colonial settings, various conflicts, and characters that must live with guilt for the sins they have committed. Hawthorne s use of the settings added depth and mood to the work. The New England region s climate and weather perfectly reflected the depression and guilty consciences of the characters. The city of Salem was also an excellent place to set a story of sin and suffering. Hester Prynne, Reverend Mister Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl, and Roger Chillingworth experience many conflicts in this novel. Among the conflicts portrayed are many examples of man versus man, man versus society, and man versus himself conflicts. Roger Chillingworth committed the worst sin of all, according to Dimmesdale. He violated the sanctity of Hester and Dimmesdale s hearts. For this sin, Chillingworth was condemned to suffer. His insurmountable need for revenge consumed him and ruled his life. Because he was taken over by jealousy and the need for revenge, Roger Chillingworth passed away after Dimmesdale s death. He showed, however, that he was not totally heartless when he left Peal a large inheritance. Hester s character dealt with the guilt most efficiently. Hester was brave, bold, and strong; therefore, she survived the tragic situation in Salem. Lonely as was Hester s situation, and without a friend on earth who dared to show himself, she, however, incurred no risk of want (Hawthorne 77). Reverend Mister Arthur Dimmesdale could not handle the pressure exerted by
his guilt and hypocrisy. Pearl was periodically and unjustly blamed for the actions of her parents. She developed an evil attitude and isolated herself from the children of the community. Despite her attitude, Pearl was the only innocent and sinless character in the novel. Pearl is the ultimate winner in the novel, based on her innocence. She grows up to lead a productive life. I believe Kaul sums up the entire theme of the novel by stating: They were sick and so were the purest of their brethren with the plague of sin. A deadly sickness, indeed! Feeling its symptoms within the breast, men concealed it with fear and shame, and were only more cruel to those unfortunates whose pestiferous sores were flagrant to the common eye. Nothing save a rich garment could ever hide the plague spot. In the course of the world s lifetime, every remedy was tried for its cure and extirpation except the single one, the flower that grew in heaven and was sovereign for all the miseries of earth. Man had never attempted to cure sin by Love (Kaul 11). This is an example of the antitranscendental belief that evil exists everywhere. Kaul s statement means that Love, a power found in its finest state only in heaven, could have cured the sores of guilt that the characters displayed.
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