"The Effects of Sin"
The main thematic emphasis in The Scarlet Letter is on sin, more specifically adultery, and its effects upon the individual in a Puritan society. In a time where people lived under the strict moral code of puritan life, many individuals were condemned to a life of seclusion and looked upon with shame by all righteous members of society. In his novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne reveals how adultery affects the lives of the individuals involved and how a Puritan society reacts to such sin.
Hawthorne uses the symbolic scarlet letter as the emblem of the adulterous acts between Hester Prynee and Arthur Dimmesdale, for she is forced to wear the 'A' as a constant badge of shame to punish her disgraceful affair. This scarlet letter represents the continual punishment by society and Hawthorne shows the affects of this emblem upon each individual involved throughout the novel.
Becoming pregnant by her adulterous acts, Hester Prynne's sin is exposed to public view and she is forced to embroider the scarlet letter 'A' onto her bosom as punishment from the Puritan society.
To Hester, the scarlet letter stood for her unforgiving shame and served as a constant reminder to all whom she encountered in her day-to-day life:
"[S]he would become the general symbol at which the preacher
and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and
embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion. Thus
the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet
letter flaming on her breast,-- at her, the child of honorable parents,
-- at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman,
-- at her who had once been innocent,-- as the figure, the body, the
reality of sin" (54).
Her child, Pearl, served...