Analysis of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

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“He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil” (Thomas Fuller). Every human being who has lived has sinned. As such, sin cannot be judged or punished merely for the act. Rather, other considerations should be taken into account. Sin is a universal concept of imperfect behavior independent of religious affiliation and is practiced universally. The range of acts and thoughts covered by sin is vast; Hawthorne critically explores the strict, inflexible Puritanical approach to sin and its implication for individuals and society. Hawthorne investigates the intent behind sin in The Scarlet Letter using Dimmesdale and Chillingworth in order to criticize the Puritan Code and to demonstrate …show more content…
Combined with the previous revelations that the lovers had likely thought Chillingworth was dead and that his marriage with Hester had been loveless and ill begotten from the beginning, the reader can form a far more forgiving response to Dimmesdale’s sin. Some readers will even begin to doubt that a sin took place at all. The idea that the sin was committed out of passion and love erases much of its stigma. Even so, Dimmesdale spends the majority of the novel hiding his sin from his congregation, causing a rapid decline in his health and in effect multiplying the original sin. He feels constant guilt for not divulging his secret to the congregation, yet he can never quite explicitly reveal himself and finishes each sermon regretting that “he had spoken the very truth, and transformed it into the veriest falsehood” (Hawthorne 141). His hypocrisy from the pulpit makes the reader cringe, as he delivers sermons that thinly mask his guilt yet which the townspeople repeatedly misinterpret as evidence of his divinity. Instead of being a healer of the soul, he puts his parishioners at risk, as pointed out by Carol Bensick. “…the hypocrite minister has created a hypocrite congregation. They think they love God: but they only love Arthur …Believing they are saved, they have in fact fallen into a sin deadlier than adultery.” He
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