The Conviction Of Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter is a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne that emphasizes sin. In the story the main character Hester Prynne is punished by her community because she committed adultery. The living proof of Hester’s sin is her daughter Pearl, a bothersome, yet intelligent, child. Hester is forced to live a life of isolation and raise Pearl by herself because she refuses to admit who the father is. Darrel Abel, in his literary criticism of The Scarlet Letter, wrote, “Society wronged Hester grievously. . . It is to the credit of human nature that, except where its selfishness is brought into play, it loves more readily than it hates. However, a scheme of social justice supplants the essential of law of love which is grounded in human hearts” (320). Hester was wrongfully punished by…show more content…
In his essay, The Cycle of American Literature, Robert Spiller writes: Hawthorne’s material was the ethical view of life of his Calvinistic New England ancestors, and his tales are almost always allegories with morals attached, but the author’s own attitude toward his material is usually that of the artist: detached, critical, skeptical. The central theme of most of his stories is not sin as a theological problem, but rather the psychological effect of the conviction of sin on the lives of the early colonists. (60) This supports the idea that Hester was punished due to the Puritan way of life of the community. Also, in The Scarlet Letter, Hester is sentenced to live an isolated life while bearing a symbol for her sin on her clothes, and a daughter. Another interpreter of Hawthorne’s work is Hyatt Howe Waggener when he wrote, “Hester’s misdeed appears as a disturbance of the moral structure of the universe; and the society continues to insist in its joyless way that certain acts deserve the honor of punishment” (1). Waggener suggests the idea that Hester is a scapegoat for society through this

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