Guilt in the Scarlett LEtter Essay

This essay has a total of 908 words and 5 pages.


Guilt in the Scarlett LEtter





10.09.01
Scarlet Letter Essay


Guilt in The Scarlet Letter

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter guilt and its effects are a
constant theme. The story is based on the results of guilt as an effect of sin. The
first character who is exposed to this guilt is Hester, who struggles more openly with
this problem. On the other hand the Reverend Dimmesdale suffers alone with a searing
guilt which ultimately leads to his demise.

Hester is the most immediately affected by guilt, which is openly shown to the public by
the scarlet letter, that she bears on her clothing. Another visible sign of her guilt is
the embodiment of it in Pearl, who is the direct result of Hester’s sin and is
therefore a constant reminder of guilt for both Hester and Dimmesdale. Pearl is also
always doing something to further her mother’s guilt. The first thing she
recognizes in the world is the scarlet letter, she often throws things at the letter, and
she even makes one for herself out of seaweed. Hawthorne even shows her as an A herself
Hester make her a beautiful red dress that is vaguely shaped like an A, and the
townspeople see her as a little scarlet letter walking along side of Hester. Guilt leads
to leads to Hester’s isolation mentally, and through the law and banishment to the
peninsula she becomes isolated from society. Hester is constantly reminded of her guilt
the most obvious example is when she travels to the governors mansion, and the description
of her image as she looks into a breastplate of a suit of armor, “the peculiar
effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and
gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance. In
truth, she seemed absolutely hidden behind it”(72). The reflection of the scarlet
letter is made to look larger than life, just like society blows it out of proportion in
the beginning of the novel. This occurs during a time when Hester is questioning herself
due to her guilt, and she even question whether it is worth living if your life is so
tainted. Although it causes Hester great pain, it is better for Hester to suffer openly
about her guilt in public because she eventually comes to terms with it. Hawthorne shows
the evolution of the letter, “The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where
other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern
and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss” . Hester is
eventually seen as just another person in the community, and the scarlet letter is taken
to mean Able instead of Adulteress.
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