Sin, as a whole, is a dark and powerful entity that can overcome one’s actions and manipulate one’s thoughts. The characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter are no exception to this curse. From Hester Prynne, to Dimmesdale, to Roger Chillingworth, each character embodies the mind, and spirit, of sin, but some of them are looking for redemption, and that is not an easy task. Even though the reader is made aware of the many shortcomings of these characters, they are also witness at their attempt to atone. The hard, relentless journey of self-redemption is easier said than done, but, by the end of the Novel, they find a way to redeem themselves in their eyes. Sin has formed a powerful bond with society over many years. It has paved a way for a clouded mind, and even more clouded actions. This continuous behavior only strengthens the degree of power sin can have over an individual. One person, in particular, that’s subject to this is Roger Chillingworth. Roger Prynne, the husband of Hester Prynne, is introduced as the victim to Hester’s sinful adultery. Hester admits her wrongdoing by explaining how she “greatly wronged thee” (53). Roger decides to let this get the best of him, as he slowly develops a cruel, vicious, vengeful personality, portraying himself as a crude villain. Hester recalls the first time she saw him as being “slightly deformed, with the left shoulder being a trifle higher than the right, almost as a misshapen scholar” (Evans). This analysis could suggest that his appearance would compliment his misshapen mentality. His bright intelligence is one of his biggest catalysts to his awful ways, making him cold, bitter, and relentless in his efforts to dissect Dimmesdale’s mental state. By the end of the novel, Roger Chillingworth, having indicted a new name based on his shame towards his significant other, becomes a dark, malignant figure that has nobody to blame but himself for his sinful path. Roger Chillingworth isn’t the only character that has been a victim to sin. Two main characters that drive the concept of sin in this novel are Hester and Dimmesdale. In the novel, Hester and Dimmesdale have committed adultery, and are paying the price. Harold Bloom describes this as a question of original sin, as the woman falls to the passion of the “Forbidden Fruit”, and Dimmesdale as the man seduced out of his intellectual paradise. This act of sin raises one of the most important themes in the novel, dealing with consequences. The Scarlet Letter is primarily based around the burden of committing sin, and facing the judgement from others as well as yourself. The characters are born into a sinful world they never wanted and cannot escape. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all guilty of the sin of concealment and hypocrisy; Pearl, herself, is the child of hypocrisy. (Wright) Pearls bringing into this world is not one of happiness, & positivity. Zoe Trodd describes Pearls upbringing as a perpetual reminder of Hester’s sin, another link in the chain that imprisons Hester in the past. Hester’s daughter, Pearl, has become a direct reminder of the sin she has committed, and can’t escape. She’s a walking figure of what could also be a chance to redeem herself by making Pearl realize her mother’s mistakes, if she would’ve been willing to admit them. Dimmesdale, another character that is antagonized with his sins, is described as “pious hypocrisy.” Him, along with the townspeople, naively believe that sin, or “human frailty and sorrow,” can be avoided through denial and pretense (James). The townspeople decide to judge Hester for her crimes, when all they’re attaining is to become hypocrites. Every being has committed sin at least once in their lives, so to judge one for their mistakes is in no way allowable. Hypocrisy is a term used very well in this sense that Dimmesdale judges Hester for her adultery when he was another hand in the cards dealt towards this sin. This article also idealizes how shoving down your problems can be the best way towards dealing with your sorrow towards sin. This is, however, not the best course of action as it eats away Dimmesdale through the story, killing him from the inside, strangling him until he can find a way to muster the confidence to reveal his deep, dark lies. The guilt that isolates within all of these characters eats them alive throughout the book. The only way they can find redemption is if they feel they’ve redeemed themselves. Dimmesdale is the prime example of somebody whose guilt torments them to the very end. He eventually acknowledges this pain when he explains how he “laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what i seem and what i am! And Satan laughs at it!” (168) His sinful wrong-doings have caused nothing but torment and misery. His guilt begins to eat him alive, and he continues to let it feast on his helpless soul. It’s only until after he acknowledges the relief his parishioners feel once they’ve confessed their sins that Dimmesdale starts to finally see how beneficial it would be to lay his sins before the world. The only thing that’s stopping him is his notoriety. Anne W. Abbot discussed Dimmesdale’s characterization by noting his seven painful years of regret towards his sins, only to be overridden by his need of social attraction. Anne discusses Dimmesdale’s desire for public approval as more of a desire than the gnawing feeling of confessing his transgressions. Dimmesdale is constantly haunted by his sin throughout the novel, but his desire for public admiration from others continues to be more of a need than his burning feeling of confessing. This leads him to a plethora of pain, regret, and remorse for him going on in the story.
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