Lasting Effect Of Sin Essay, Research Paper
The past always comes back to haunt us throughout our lives. Puritan society is highly based upon a person?s reputation. Without an honorable reputation a person is not worthy of respect from others in their society. Characters in this novel go through their lives struggling with themselves trying to cope with the guilt and shame associated with their actions. In Nathaniel Hawthorne?s novel, The Scarlet Letter, he shows the lasting effect that sin has on Hester and Dimmesdale.
Hester Prynne?s guilt is the result of her committing adultery, which has a profound 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 ? (Hawthorne 49). The spell that is mentioned is the scarlet letter, ?so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom? (Hawthorne 49). The scarlet letter is what isolates her from everyone else because it symbolizes sin. Hester is in her very own sphere, a world of her own where her sin effects her livelihood and has completely isolated her from the world. Her entrance into the sphere marks the beginning of her guilt, it occurs when she is ?in the prison after her first exposure to the crowd-her ?moral agony? reflected in the convolutions that have seized the child; her pride, her daring? (Bloom 34). The prison marks the beginning of a new life for Hester, a life full of guilt and isolation. Her ?moral agony? (Bloom 34), is her guilt that is slowly surfacing while she faces the crowd realizing that she has been stripped of her pride and everything that was important to her in the past. The lasting effect of Hester?s sin is the guilt that she now embodies due to her commiting adultery. The guilt that is associated with Hester?s sin remains with her as an everlasting reminder of her sinful actions (Bloom 34). Guilt is a consequence of sin that Hester has to endure throughout her life. Hester?s guilt begins starts to have a profound effect on her life and thinking.
Hester?s guilt has 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? (Hawthorne 52-53). Hester?s guilt has surfaced fully because when she wants to simply express herself she is prevented from doing so due to her guilty conscience. She wants to take revenge on everyone that has passed judgment on her by giving them a ?disdainful smile? (Hawthorne 53), but she is fearful that she might start feeling guilty for doing such a thing. ?The crowd was somber and grave? (Hawthorne 52). Hester can?t lash out against the crowd and express her anger because she will feel horrible. What can Hester do now? ?She behaves as a sister of mercy in the community because this is the way to live unmolested not because she believes in doing good? (Baym 36). Hester is forced to act with good intentions towards others making it seem like she is not influenced by their opinions. She does this to avoid confrontations so she can live her life peacefully (Baym 36). It seems Hester can live without any consequences of sin if she is able to suppress her anger, but she is actually being slowly isolated from the world (Carton 102). Living peacefully for Hester is slowly isolating her because she acts kind to others to avoid confrontations, which shows that she is afraid of the world and is actually trying to hide from it. Hester?s guilt lies underneath everything because it?s her guilt that prevents her from expressing her anger, which leads to her acting kind to avoid any confrontations, and it slowly isolates Hester. The consequences of Hester?s guilt is becoming very powerful and its masked by another consequence of sin. Guilt is still the consequence that causes Hester to become isolated from the world around her and it happens without her noticing.
Hester?s ultimate consequence of sin is her daughter Pearl. With Pearl, Hester has to assume full responsibility because she is raising a child of her own. Hester loves Pearl because she is her daughter, but she is also a symbol of Hester?s sin (Ziff 38). This is very difficult for Hester because she sees a child that she loves and then she sees the consequence of her sin. ?Come along, Madam Hester, and show your scarlet letter in the market-place!? (Hawthorne 50). This shows that she is willing to go out into public and show her scarlet letter without shame even though she is still condemned. Hester also acts compassionately towards others, to live her life peacefully and raise Pearl (Baym 37). Hester is only worried about raising Pearl so she is able to look beyond her past (Lawrence 42). Even though Hester loves Pearl she can?t escape the effects of sin cause Pearl is the ultimate consequence, which is always there to remind her. ?I can teach my little Pearl what I have learned from this!? (Hawthorne 103). This shows that Hester is determined to raise Pearl and use herself as an example to teach Pearl so she would not make the same mistakes Hester did. The lasting effect of sin is Pearl, she is always with Hester and is a constant reminder of her committing adultery. Hester?s sin is masked by the love she has for Pearl and even though Pearl reminds her of sin; Hester is still willing to assume responsibility. Hester?s determination in order to raise Pearl is truly inspiring because she struggles and deals with the lasting effects of sin and still manages to have an undying love for her daughter.
Reverend Dimmesdale guilt causes him to develop a series of internal conflicts.
Dimmesdale experiences a very unique ordeal which sets him apart from the rest of the characters in this novel. The lasting effect of guilt that Dimmesdale experiences is not due to external factors, but it originates and grows within Dimmesdale himself. Dimmesdale has committed adultery with Hester Prynne and the consequence for his sin is the guilt that becomes apart of him. Reverend Dimmesdale?s struggle to cope with his guilt causes him to do very traumatic things to himself. ?Mr. Dimmesdale thus communed with himself, and struck his forehead with his hand? (Hawthorne 217). Dimmesdale has become so enraged with his guilt that he gets violent and induces pain upon himself. ?Dimmesdale is living under the severe pain brought on by his inward shame of having sinned in the face of God? (Solomon 1). His guilt has a profound effect on him and prevents him from confessing his sin on the scaffold. The guilt that Dimmesdale experiences is unlike any other. The lasting effect of sin causes a internal conflict within himself and it makes him afraid of confessing his sin because he is embarrassed by his actions.
The confession of sin is an important aspect of Reverend Dimmesdale?s life. If Reverend Dimmesdale confesses to his sin then he will be free of his pain and will remain with his guilt. Why doesn?t Dimmesdale confess; does he like suffering? Dimmesdale is a man of God and he is highly respected as a minister in his community. ?Mr. Dimmesdale had achieved a brilliant popularity in his sacred office? (Hawthorne 135). Dimmesdale values his reputation over his well being through this time of suffering in his life. Puritan society is all about reputation, which determines the degree of respect a person receives (Bryson 84). Dimmesdale?s objective is to deal with his guilt without confessing so he can avoid losing his reputation among the people who have come to respect him. Dimmesdale decides on confessing his sins on the scaffold. To avoid his reputation from being destroyed Dimmesdale approaches the scaffold at night. ?No eye could see him, save that ever-wakeful one which had seen him in his closet wielding the bloody scourge. Why, then, had he come hither? Was it but the mockery of penitence?? (Hawthorne 141). This shows that even though Dimmesdale confessed on the scaffold at night no one was around to witness his confession. Confessing at night does nothing for Dimmesdale because he didn?t reveal his sin to the people (Bryson 87). ?It?s done!? muttered the minister, covering his face with his hands? (Hawthorne 142). Dimmesdale is glad that he has confessed and he believes all his pain has come to an end. ?The minister looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of and immense letter-the letter A? (Hawthorne 149). This is a sign for Dimmesdale telling him to confess even though he already did on the scaffold. This sign shows that his suffering is not over and he will have to live with the consequences till he confesses on the scaffold in front of the public. The lasting effect that sin has on Dimmesdale causes him to suffer throughout his life. The guilt makes Dimmesdale keep everything to himself instead of confessing in front of the public. He values his reputation more than anything else and pays the ultimate price.
The lasting effect of sin for Hester and Dimmesdale is the guilt, which they are left with in the end. They will have to suffer with their guilty conscience as a consequence for their sins. Some mistakes that are made in life cannot be corrected very easily. Sacrifices have to be made and in the end you learn something useful. Hester and Dimmesdale both sacrifice their peaceful lives and live with guilt, which effects them
throughout their lives and causes them to suffer. Experiences cause people to learn and grow, but they also take something away in the end.
Works citedBaym, Nina. ?Who? The Characters.? Hester Prynne. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1990. 34-37.
Bloom, Harold. The Scarlet Letter. Blooms Notes. New York: Chelsea , 1996.
Bryson, Norman. ?Hawthornes Illegible Letter.? Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1984. 81-94.
Carton, Evan. ?The Prison Door.? Critical Interpetations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1984. 97-120.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Austin: Holt, Rienhart and Winston, 1850.
Lawrence, D.H. ?Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter.? Hester Prynne. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1990. 39-51.
Solomon, Amy. ?Passage commentary on The Scarlet Letter.? The Principio Project at Peddie. 11 Oct. 1997. Riverside Poly High School Library. 20 Nov. 2000 .
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