The Theme of The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1278 Words 6 Pages
The Theme of the Scarlet Letter
How should society react to sin? With The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne takes us back to our roots, back to Puritan New England, “a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people” (58), and through this skillfully crafted novel, gives us an answer. According to Hawthorne, it is in the best interest of society to openly punish sin, for eventually the transgressor is reaccepted into society, while those who have sinned and receive no absolution from society suffer terribly. Hester Prynne has sinned, and as punishment must wear a scarlet A. The A is for all to see that she has committed adultery, and to ensure that she is forever an outcast, one separated from
…show more content…
A mere seven years and the town is ready to consider allowing Hester to remove her badge of shame. But they need not worry; Hester would not have. Near the end of her life, when she returns to Boston after many years away, she still wears the scarlet letter, but now willingly, for “the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness” (234), rather it is a looked upon with reverence. Due to Hester’s strength and kindness, the scarlet letter remains not a symbol of ignominy, but instead transforms into a symbol of magnanimity. It is Hester, not Dimmesdale or Chillingworth, that ultimately survives the novel because she is given a way to repent for her sin. Yes, she experiences the sting of scorn, the ache of arrogance, and the twinge of taunts, but since she bears it all patiently, society reaccepts her, because in the end, that is the nature of the human heart. Arthur Dimmesdale is Hester’s minister and lover. As her minister, it is he who is called upon by Governor Bellingham to exhort the identity of the father out of Hester. By now, the guilt has already begun tear him apart; his body is more emaciated, his voice more melancholy, and his hand more ready to clutch his heart at the slightest alarm (pg 109). Dimmesdale informs Hester she is doing the father no favor by keeping his identity a secret, and that “‘though he were to step