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Guilt and shame can tear a person’s soul away. The inevitable consequence of sin is the immediate reaction of guilt, shame, and remorse. In each of the two works, The Crucible by Arthur Miller and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there are characters who have committed a sin and feel guilty about it. For example: John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and Reverend Dimmesdale have all committed a sin or sins and are feeling extremely guilty and remorseful about it. They are wanting to be forgiven, but they have no strength and are cowards. Forgiveness can be obtained if these characters find the strength within themselves to speak the truth.
The first to commit a sin is John Proctor, the husband of Elizabeth Proctor. John is a good man until Abigail Williams comes into his life. John lives in a house feeling empty and thinking his wife does not love him. Lust is a very powerful feeling and it tempts John right into bed with Abigail. He commits adultery and Elizabeth does not forgive him. She finds ways to punish John and make him feel more remorseful. For example, Reverend Hale asks John to recite the commandments and he forgets one, Elizabeth then says sarcastically, “Adultery, John” (Miller 1211). Elizabeth responds in such a manner that John feels such pain in his heart. At one point John is fed up with her heartless manner and says, “Spare me! You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’….I have gone tip toe in this house all seven month from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart” (Miller 1203). John is fed up with her convictions. With this his mind, Elizabeth herself has convictions of her own.
Indeed, Elizabeth feels guilty as well. She tells John, “I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery” (Miller 1252). Elizabeth feels as though she is to blame for John committing adultery. She is a mother and ,of course, Elizabeth will be consumed with taking care of their children, cooking, cleaning, etc. At first, Elizabeth does not realize John pulling away from her and turning towards Abigail. Soon after Elizabeth finds out John committed adultery with Abby, she fires her. Later on in the novel Elizabeth is accused of being a witch and John goes to court to prove Abigail is lying. When John does try to prove Abigail is lying, he ends up confessing that he committed adultery with Abigail. Then the judges bring in Elizabeth to tell the truth whether John had an affair or not. When she was asked if John committed adultery she replies, “No, sir” (Miller 1237). As soon as she replied John yells, “I have confessed it!” (Miller 1237). Elizabeth gasps and feels horrible because she has lied even though she knew the truth.
But Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale has also felt the burden of knowing the truth and not being unable to speak of it. He secretly has a love affair with Hester Prynne and when she is displayed in the marketplace, Dimmesdale has a chance to speak out the truth, but he does not. Instead he speaks to Hester, “..I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow sufferer!”(Hawthorne 73). It is hypocritical of Arthur to tell Hester to speak out the truth when he knows the truth and he is the father of the child she bore. His silence shows how much of a coward Arthur is and how scared he is of the truth.
The birth of Pearl, their child, saddened Arthur tremendously because he knows he can not hug his child, kiss her, or even raise her. The Reverend is always holding his hand over his heart because he feels weak and helpless. The scaffold is the only place he has to “speak” the truth. The Reverend confesses his sins at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night for the whole town to hear. He shrieked, “It is done! The whole town will awake, and hurry forth, and fine me here” (Hawthorne 144). But it is not so. The town does not wake and he is left with the emptiness in his heart yet again. In the end, the Reverend finally gets the courage to reveal his sin, but his sin led to his demise and he died right then and there.
Clearly it is shown that all these characters in The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible have sins whether they realized it or not. The characters all suffered and pity themselves more or less for being cowards and not revealing the truth at the moment they needed to. Redemption is a necessity for sinners and that he what the characters wanted.