Guilt and Innocence in The Scarlet Letter

Essay by bandfreakHigh School, 11th gradeB+, May 2012

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Guilt & Innocence in The Scarlet Letter

Knowledge and sin connect in the Judeo-Christian tradition in the story of Adam and Eve. Sin becomes the outcome in the story of Adam and Eve when they get thrown out of the Garden of Eden. After their banishment from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve must work and bear children. Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale experience similar situations as Adam and Eve in the novel The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. For Hester, the scarlet letter becomes her ticket to go places no one else would dare go to. However, for Dimmesdale, the weight of his sin gives him close and personal sympathy with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so he feels a kinship with them. Hester and Dimmesdale reflect on their own sinfulness on a daily basis and strive to resolve it with their own knowledge. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays the theme of guilt and innocence through Hester Prynne, Reverend Dimmesdale, and Pearl to show that sometimes guilt or innocence is a conscious decision.

Nathaniel Hawthorne establishes the theme of guilt and innocence throughout the novel by displaying how Reverend Dimmesdale's guilt affects him. In Chapter Ten, Roger Chillingworth and Reverend Dimmesdale talk about why black weeds would spring up in a buried heart of a dead man to represent an unspoken crime. Reverend Dimmesdale speaks that no power above the Divine mercy reveals the secrets that bury with a human heart. The minister replied, "The heart making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed" (Hawthorne 118). Reverend Dimmesdale says that the heart forces itself to feel guilty for keeping those secrets concealed in itself. The heart must inevitably hold...