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Jessica Heiland

Ms. Davis

Adv. Eng. III – Per.6

10 April 2000

The Greatest Sin

People waste their lives all the time by making bad decisions, focusing their lives on destroying others, and wallowing in self pity and regret. Nathaniel Hawthorne shows in his novel, The Scarlet Letter, that people go through their lives casting off their true potential. Through the characters Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale, Hawthorne shows that sin is not only evil because it is against God=s word, but because it can destroy the sinner. Sometimes the sin itself isn=t the worst act of the sinner, it is the wasting of their life.

Hester Prynne commits more than one sin, but she is only publicly condemned for one. Her private anguish is relieved because her sin is made public so she doesn=t have anything to hide. Hester commits adultery because she is in love with Dimmesdale. She is very passionate person and is motivated by her heart. She doesn=t express any guilt or regret about the act of adultery itself, but she seems to regret the events that led to it and the pain it caused. Another one of Hester=s sins is marrying Chillingworth. Neither of them loved the other. She doomed herself by marrying Chillingworth, certified her damnation by committing adultery, and finalized it when she concealed Chillingworth=s identity from Dimmesdale.

The price Hester pays for her sins is more than being shunned by society; she becomes completely isolated. She lives her life in isolation from her lover, husband, child, society, and from herself. The AA@ on her chest could have stood for alienation, but it also could have stood for artist. Hester is a talented seamstress but she never learns anything else she is talented at and she never sees her real potential. Hester=s most serious sin isn=t marrying someone she doesn=t love or committing adultery, it is wasting her life because of these sins.

Roger Chillingworth is the one condemned sinner with an unredeemable soul. This is because he deliberately chooses evil. He commits the unpardonable sin according to Hawthorne. He not only doomed himself, but he violated the sanctity of another human heart. Chillingworth wastes his life on getting revenge on Dimmesdale. Chillingworth allows himself to become so obsessed with Dimmesdale that he loses his own identity. His only focus in life it to make Dimmesdale suffer. Exposure and public humiliation is not a high enough price for Dimmesdale to pay for Chillingworth. He wants to destroy Dimmesdale. Chillingworth can=t get revenge on Hester directly, but in a way, he still does. By destroying Hester=s one true love, he destroys a part of her.

Arthur Dimmesdale is a weak and vulnerable character. In a way, he brings it upon himself. Dimmesdale isolates himself from the real word and wallows in self pity and guilt. Although, Dimmesdale needs the real word. He feeds off of his minister status even though he is alienated from the other parishioners. The public praise, adoration, and respect isolates Dimmesdale even more by making him incapable of revealing his sin. Because he doesn=t confess, Dimmesdale=s deep-rooted guilt eats away at him. He finally confesses because he realizes that confessing is the only way to escape Chillingworth. When he confesses, he takes away Chillingworth=s reason for living because Chilingworth lived to make Dimmesdale suffer. Dimmesdale wastes his life by not even living it anymore. His guilt kills him because he lets it.

It appears that Hawthorne believed that people had to have a balance between their hearts, minds, and spirits. Hester letting her heart rule her life destroys her, Chillingworth allowing his mind to drift off and only think of evil ruins him, and Dimmesdales obsession with his Alost@ soul brings him to his demise. Each of these characters committed a hidden sin; they wasted what they were and what they could have been.


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