The Scarlett Letter Essay, Research Paper
The Affects of Sin on the Individual in The Scarlet Letter
In the novel, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there is a
reoccurring theme of the affects of sin on man. The three main characters, Hester
Pryne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingsworth, are all affected by the sin
of Hester Pryne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester Pryne is strengthened by the sin,
Arthur Dimmesdale is weakened by it, and Roger Chillingsworth becomes evil
because of it.
The protagonist, Hester Prynne is, in essence, strengthened by the sin she
commits with Arthur Dimmesdale. She turns the meaning of the letter ?A? from
adultery to able. She seeks redemption in the eyes of God and man through the
good deeds she does for others. She becomes ?self-ordained a Sister of Mercy,?
who?s new role is that of a tender nurse to the colony?s ill(158). She asserts that
fulfillment and love are worth fighting for, and she continues to walk about Puritan
Boston with her head held high. However, the sin she commits has the opposite
affect on her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale.
Weakness and frailty overcome the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale.
Dimmesdale becomes an unknowing victim to Hester Prynne?s husband, Roger
Chillingsworth. Chillingsworth maneuvers himself into an intimate friend and
constant attendant to Dimmesdale. The worse Dimmesdale feels, the stronger he
appears in the eyes of his congregation. He grows pale and thin and his
congregation assumes he is too pure to eat. His outward appearance comes from
his ritual of fasting until he faints. He also partakes in the penance of whipping
himself until he bleeds. Dimmesdale is trying to starve or scourge the sin from his
soul. This, to him, is an easier solution than ruining the virtuous image his
congregation has of him. Chillingsworth, on the other hand, does not seek
redemption from sin.
As a result of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale?s sin, Roger
Chillingsworth becomes evil. Chillingsworth begins to feed on the sin by torturing
Dimmesdale. He constantly digs into the soul of Dimmesdale to find the evil he
suspects in him. ?Then why not reveal them[the sin] here?? inquires
Chillingsworth(128). Here he again tries to get Dimmesdale to reveal his sin. He
is an evil villain who is playing a game with his enemy. He feeds on the hidden sin
within Dimmesdale. He finds an evil power in watching Dimmesdale suffer.
Hawthorne justly calls Chillingsworth ?Satan?s emissary, in the guise of old Roger
In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the sin that Arthur
Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne commit have varying affects on the main
characters. Hester Prynne becomes a stronger woman, Arthur Dimmesdale
becomes a weak minister, and Arthur Chillingsworth becomes an evil villain.
Thus, Hawthorne uses these characters to show the affects of sin on man