The Scarlet Letter: Identity In A Moral Wilderness

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Identity in a Moral Wilderness Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates the idea of a moral wilderness and the consequences of sin in his novel The Scarlet Letter. Set in colonial Boston, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale experience the solitude of a moral wilderness as a result of their sin. Through Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale, Hawthorne shows that triumph over pride and a remorseful heart are needed to escape the loss of identity and the impending moral wilderness that comes as a result of sin. Hester’s identity begins to fade when she receives cruel treatment from the women of Boston, leading her deeper into a moral wilderness. As a consequence of her adultery, Hester must wear the letter A on her bosom, making the public mindful of her…show more content…
Dimmesdale preaches on the consequences of sin, but he refuses to deal with the consequences of the sin in his own life. He realizes his life is full of hypocrisy. His identity becomes confused. He loses his sense of self because he is deceiving everyone. Dimmesdale places the need to protect his reputation and his good standing in the community above all else. Further complicating matters, his refusal to take public responsibility for his sin is detrimental to his mental state. He allows Hester to bear the burden of public shame. Dimmesdale does not realize that hiding his sin brings more guilt and therefore leads him deeper into a moral wilderness. Dimmesdale realizes that silence should “tempt him, - yea, compel him, as it were – to add hypocrisy to sin?” (58). The more time he spends protecting his secret, the more guilt, shame, and suffering his choices bring him. The results of Dimmesdale’s sin are all consuming guilt and shame which lead to a loss of identity and a total destruction of his soul. He knows he should confess when he states, “though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life” (58). Dimmesdale hides his human flaws and sins to avoid punishment and a loss of his position in the community. Confessing, asking for forgiveness, bearing responsibility for his sin would result in some sort of freedom from the moral wilderness he so desperately wants to

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