Sin in Salem

What I find fascinating the Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is the punishing power of a belief in sin. While Hester’s community ostracizes her and forces her to wear the scarlet letter A for committing adultery, it is Hester’s belief in her own sin that punishes her. Instead of moving back home to London or to another community in the New World, Hester chooses to stay and bear her alienation. She imagines her daughter, Pearl, to be simultaneously a demon child and a perpetual punishing reminder of her sin. She dresses Pearl in scarlet finery to be the human manifestation of the scarlet letter A. In addition to Hester, Dimmesdale punishes himself because of his belief in his own sin. Unable to speak his sin, he inscribes it in his flesh.


Another interesting point was that while the community will have nothing to do with Hester and she serves as a warning to prospective sinners, Hester’s weaves her sin into the clothing the community buys from her. Hester’s services are in such demand that the community is forced to buy their special-occasion clothes and gloves from Hester. While brides are never allowed to wear her clothes for fear of spreading her sin, babies, the dead, and officials all wear clothes sewn by Hester. Sin is an usnpoken underpinning of their society. Hester sees this also when she encounters sympathetic looks and intuitions that others in her community have sinned.

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Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 7:30 am Comments (0)

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