Hawthorne And The Theme Sin In His Works

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Hawthorne and the theme Sin in his works


Hawthorne's exploration of the themes relating to sin, guilt, punishment, etc, was related to the sense of guilt he felt about the roles of his ancestors in the 17th-century persecution of Quakers and in the 1692 witchcraft trials of Salem, Massachusetts. His early works are mainly historical sketches and symbolic and allegorical tales dealing with moral conflicts and the effects of Puritanism. His tales; "Roger Malvin's Burial," "Rappaccini's Daughter," and "Young Goodman Brown," clearly show Hawthorne's preoccupation with the effects of pride, guilt, sin, and secrecy. These are combined with a continued emphasis on symbolism and allegory. He wrote the Scarlet letter in 1850, novel based on the secret of sin. The story is about the adulterous Puritan Hester Prynne, who loyally refuses to reveal the name of her partner. Regarded as his masterpiece and as one of the classics of American literature, The Scarlet Letter reveals both Hawthorne's superb craftsmanship and the powerful psychological insight with which he probed guilt and anxiety in the human soul. Sin is a part of everyday life.


After analyzing several of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories, it becomes apparent to the reader that he often wrote using the recurring theme of sin. Though sin is present in all of his works, there is much variation on the ways in which his characters come to understand the inherent evil that lurks inside every human being. Whether expressed in the form of selfishness, passion, or obsession, the sin is somehow masked and concealed from others, and prevents humans from achieving pure goodness (O'Toole). Among Hawthorne's many literary works, "The Birthmark," "The Minister's Black Veil," and "Young Goodman Brown" provide excellent examples in depicting the variances among the common theme of evil and sin.

Hawthorne tries to point out that sin, no matter how trivial or how substantial, is still sin. There have been debates on exactly who is the biggest sinner, but in Hawthorne's case, he believed that the sins were equal and throughout the novel he developed each of them, and tried to make the reader develop an understanding of his reasoning. Hawthorne not only dealt with just the sin, but how sin can affect a person if not professed. To go even deeper into the theme, Hawthorne, throughout the novel, explains how un- confessed sin can eat away at the conscience and destroy the soul. Hester, who had confessed her sin of adultery, wore the scarlet. But in the end, as a result of Hester's confession, the sin does not destroy her, but instead it had made her stronger and braver and she flourished. Dimmesdale, who had committed adultery with Hester, waited until the sin completely destroyed him before he confessed. The longer he waited to confess, the more punishment and torture he went through mentally and physically, not only by himself-his conscience, but also by Chillingworth-the husband of Hester.

Several times Dimmesdale tried to hint during his sermons about his sinfulness, but the congregation only honored him ...
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