Guilt In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

559 Words3 Pages
The definition of guilt is “the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously” (Merriam). The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel set in a Puritan society in Boston where religion is very important. The main character, Hester, sins and the novel tells how her sin affects her life, her daughter’s, and others close to her. In the entirety of the novel, Hawthorne shows that while there may be positive effects of guilt, displayed in Hester, more often than not guilt negatively impacts people, as shown with both Hester and Dimmesdale. Guilt is healthy when people learn from their feelings of guilt and when guilt influences people to become a better person, as it does in Hester. Hester’s shame leads to her devoting a lot of her time to “making coarse garments for the poor” (Hawthorne 57). Hester’s guilt, shame, and despair also made her strong, therefore her feelings…show more content…
The liveliness from her face disappears and her “rich and luxuriant hair had either been cut off, or was so completely hidden by a cap, that not a shining lock of it ever once gushed into the sunshine” (Hawthorne 112). Emotional withdrawal happens in many cases of guilt, which Hester does by isolating herself from her community because of the feelings of shame she feels when people look at the letter. She begins to have a “dread of children; for they inhabited from their parents a vague idea of something horrible in this dreary woman” (Hawthorne 58-59). The way Hester thinks of people is evident of a low self-esteem, another effect people often get when dealing with feelings of guilt. Furthermore, Hester’s feelings of shame are so imperative she mentally tortures herself by staying in Boston “not simply because she wants to be near Arthur Dimmesdale but because this has been the scene of her humiliation” (Crews
Open Document