The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by radiator25High School, 11th gradeA, April 2003

download word file, 2 pages 3.7

Unlike modern authors, Nathaniel Hawthorne is more concerned with what sin causes rather than what causes sin. In his stories, such as The Scarlet Letter, this is especially present. The focus of the plot is not how or why Hester chose to have an affair with Dimmesdale, but what happened to the two as a result. The setting of the story is set after the sin has already been committed, lasting several years after to show the affects of the sinners actions.

When Hester is introduced as a sinner, the explanation of her crime is brief. She "clasp[s] the infant (Pearl) closely to her bosom" (37) while standing on the scaffold so all can see her scarlet letter. Pearl is an "infant...worthy to have been brought forth in Eden" (61), which surprises many since she is the result of an affair. They expected to see a child of the devil, but instead are presented with a beautiful, healthy baby.

Pearl's existence is ambiguous throughout the story as she is seen as both a blessing and a curse. She is a constant reminder of her mother's actions, but at the same time she is the light of Hester's life. Hester considers her daughter her "happiness [but her] torture nonetheless" (77). This shows that sin does not only bring evil, but good can result as well. Because of her sins, Hester is shunned from society by adults as well as children. She and Pearl live in an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town, relying on each other alone.

Dimmesdale's continually failing health is a result of his sin as well. Instead of admitting publicly that he is Pearl's father, he chooses to keep his sin inside and his guilt drives him mad. He would rather suffer privately and...