The Benefits of Sin Revealed in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Benefits of Sin Revealed in The Scarlet Letter

According to Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter, each of us is born with "original sin" we have inherited from the misdeeds of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As Eve bit hungrily into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, starving for wisdom, little did she know that the entire human race would thereafter be tainted by her "sin." Hawthorne and many others believe that ever since, human beings have been inclined to evil, more likely to disobey than to act in a godly manner. This is a faithless, cynical view of humanity, but one perhaps justified by the actions of Hester Prynne and the Reverend Dimmesdale. Sin seems to be an inevitable factor in their lives; though
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Questioning would have thrown their world into turmoil. They liked simple, written laws. Laws of the heart were unimportant; after all, how could one live by laws that were not even verbalized or written in any way? Puritan society was so rigid, so strict, that other rules were not even considered. Hester's sin comes from her refusal to ignore that other set of rules: the rules of her soul. I read about Hester's predicament and think, "She was following her heart. How is being true to herself a sin?" But in the 17th century in Puritan America, the individual did not create rules. Society did. Granted, the structure and laws of society are needed to some extent in order to prevent chaos. But some matters are not the business of government. Hester's sin should have been private, if it had been a sin at all in her eyes. She could not escape societal laws, though, and her sin darkened in her eyes and made her ashamed.

It is no wonder that Hester is so confused by her sin and its implications, because her guilt is contradictory in and of itself. The scarlet letter she wears, the symbol of her sin, and her little daughter Pearl, the product of her sin, remind her every day of how she has done wrong. And yet, in some mysterious way, these marks of sin save her from other sins. Pearl, though looked upon by others as a devilish child, is perhaps a gift to Hester. Without Pearl,
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