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A sinful theme in the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

How does Hawthorne develop his themes of sin, hypocrisy, and corruption in the Puritan society through the occurrences of the scarlet letter, the scaffold, the Puritans, the prison, and the forest in the story?

In the world today, themes and symbolisms have played a major role in the development and presentation of past and present novels. These themes and symbolisms within a novel shape the overall story and often work hand in hand to convey its purpose and meaning. One such novel would include The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne; in this story, along with all his others, he has incorporated his three predominant, driving themes: In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses the occurrences of the scarlet letter, the scaffold, the Puritans, the prison, and the forest in the story to develop his themes of sin, hypocrisy, and corruption within the Puritan society.

The Scarlet Letter

The theme of sin in the story is supported by the scarlet letter, the scaffold, and the forest. The scarlet letter, forced to be worn by Hester Prynne as a punishment for her act of adultery, is the physical representation of her sin.

The scarlet A is always visible for the Puritans to see on Hester Prynne, and she is foremost ashamed of her sin, though she turns it into more of an ornament by beautifully embroidering the A in red and gold, thereby adorning a piece of her artistry of which she can take pride in, as opposed to a horrid punishment.

The Scarlet Letter Theme Analysis: Sin, Hypocrisy, and Corruption We have so large base of authors that we can prepare a unique summary of any book. How fast would you like to get it? We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails. It serves as a physical representation of the revealing of sin, as it is upon the scaffold that those accused of sin must stand in shame and humiliation before the scorn of the entire community; it acts as the literal threshold upon which sin is placed for all to see and condemn and was where Hester Prynne, while wearing the scarlet A, was forced to stand while the magistrates determined the punishment for her sin.

It is within the forest that the Puritans believe the Black Man, or Satan, dwells and meets with his followers during the night; therefore, to the society, the forest is a place of sinfulness, where there is no law, order, or good.

Dimmesdale goes out for walks through the forest, and it is also there that Hester and Pearl meet Dimmesdale and discuss their sin; Roger Chllingworth is also known to regularly go into the forest in search of plants and herbs for his medicinal and physician practices; also, Mistress Hibbins, of course, visits the forest quite often with the rest of the followers of the Black Man.

Thus, the forest, especially in the view of the Puritan society, is associated with sin. In the story, the theme of hypocrisy is supported by the forest, the prison, the scarlet letter, and the Puritans.

  1. In the end, "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too.
  2. They begin to call her "our Hester," and to take a sort of pride in her good works. The magistrates of the society, specifically Mr.
  3. From the beginning of the story, he is somewhat pale and weak.
  4. Thus, the forest, especially in the view of the Puritan society, is associated with sin. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.

Throughout the course of the book, when characters are within the forest, their true nature is generally shown. Dimmesdale is within the forest, he is weak and eteriorating, both physically and mentally, and appears to be in the most forlorn state, having nearly completely given up on living a true life and torn between revealing his true self and continuing to wear the fake face he puts on for the Puritan society; while he is also weak and deteriorating physically in the eyes of the Puritans, they still regard him as being mentally strong and pure, something they are fooled into thinking due to his ongoing acts of hypocrisy.

Also, after Hester had been in the forest for a while with Mr. Dimmesdale and had taken off the scarlet letter and other attire of which she had worn since her sin and isolation from society, she experienced a physical change as well as an also present, yet more subtle, mental change; the visual characteristics of herself that the Puritan society had come to recognize her by, the scarlet letter and her cap, were cast off, and she looked and thought once again as she had before her sin, beautiful, strong, and confident.

A crimson flush was flowing on her cheek that had been long so pale. The forest also seems to attract those who do not hide themselves behind a mask of hypocrisy; two of the characters who were most predominately associated with the forest or nature in general, and who, from what we are shown, were not hypocritical, are Pearl and Mistress Hibbins.

Pearl, while quite odd and eccentric in her own way, does not attempt to pretend to be someone she is not or try to be a hypocrite so as to be accepted by the Puritan society and no longer be considered an outcast.

  1. How and why is sin a communal, collective problem in The Scarlet Letter?
  2. Yet, he rejects it with every ounce of strength. This punishment affects her daughter as well -- other children will not play with her.
  3. The scarlet letter, forced to be worn by Hester Prynne as a punishment for her act of adultery, is the physical representation of her sin.
  4. Dimmesdale, used their positions as a false cover for their sin, even if not entirely willingly. He is very much overwhelmed with shame and remorse and as a result he becomes famous of his sermons.
  5. She does not share her humiliation with her partner in sin but bears the punishment alone. Even the poor folk to whom she gives her extra money and food spit insults at her when they see her.

Instead, she freely expresses herself and has a connection with nature, choosing to play alone in the forest rather than act as those among the Puritan society, as a hypocrite. Mistress Hibbins, also, did not seem to take any care in hiding her true self, and it appeared that most of everyone was greatly certain of her close affiliation to the Black Man and the rest of his followers. The prison, along with the prison yard, also supports the theme of hypocrisy; there is a prison even in a Puritan society, showing that while the community appears to be pure on the outside, hypocrites are discovered and must be dealt with.

The abundance of weeds in the prison yard represents all the hypocrites, the prison yard itself being analogous to the society, the prison to punishment for sin, and the lone, red rosebush to those justly accused of sin but unjustly accused alone, while the rest of society continues to live their two-faced lives; when one in society convicted of crime, a red rose, is taken to their punishment, the prison, they must pass through their fellow hypocrites in the society, the plot of weeds, who are overlooked for their own crimes while the light a sinful theme in the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne accusation shines brightly on the one convicted, the single, red rose.

The development of hypocrisy in the story is also aided by the scarlet letter. While there were likely many others in the society deserving of the punishment of wearing a scarlet letter for their sin, the scarlet A is singled out for Hester, a red rose among the plot of weeds; yet, it seemed to reveal the sin in others to Hester. The Puritans in the society also play a role in the development of the theme of hypocrisy; while they tried to appear pure and upright on the outside, it is inevitable that they all had sin, but they chose to make others believe they did not, and in doing so, in order to refrain from the conviction that would ultimately result from exposing their sin, they lived their lives as hypocrites.

Even their leader and pastor, Mr. Dimmesdale, seemed to be the biggest hypocrite of them all; nevertheless, the Puritans followed him, being too absorbed in their reverence of him to notice the real struggle he was dealing with. The very presence of the prison is evidence enough of the sin and corruption in the Puritan society and in society in general; were there no corruption, and ultimately no sin, there would be no need for a prison, not even for the purpose of a threat against potential corruption, for if the society truly was a perfect and pure society, there would be no need to do so.

The Puritans of the society similarly help to support the theme of corruption; the Puritans all lived in a corrupted society and sinned; yet, one of the main reasons for its corruption was the absence of God in the society. While the Puritans claimed to live pure, righteous, and pious lives, throughout the story, there was no evidence or indication of God in the lives of the people or in the community as a whole.

The magistrates of the society, specifically Mr. Dimmesdale, used their positions as a false cover for their sin, even if not entirely willingly.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne develops his three themes of sin, hypocrisy, and corruption using the scarlet letter, the scaffold, the Puritans, the prison, and the forest within the story. Need Help With Your Essay?

  • The theme of sin in the story is supported by the scarlet letter, the scaffold, and the forest;
  • Whether a sin is committed secretly or not, it ends up affecting everyone;
  • Hester Prynne is deeply sinned and she is guilty of adultery.

Lastly, the theme of corruption is supported by the prison, as evidence of the corruption in society and in the people, and the Puritans, representing the absence of God in the society and its corrupt leadership. Overall, Hawthorne has used many of the prominent symbols in the book to effectively communicate his reoccurring themes of sin, hypocrisy, and corruption in The Scarlet Letter.