Books and Movies Reviews

Scarlett Letter – Repentance

Laws and regulations in the mid 1600’s were greatly influenced by beliefs and philosophies of the Puritan religion. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne attempts to convince the reader of the superiority of repentance in dealing with sin. The humiliations and punishment endured by Hester, the protagonist, is often cited as a classic victim of overzealous, Puritanical punishment. Rather, the underlying theme actually expresses the notion that public repentance and acknowledgment of sin acts as a catalyst in helping the sinner cope with and eventually overcome the emotional and mental stress that results from sin. In The Scarlet Letter three separate but related scaffold scenes are used to illustrate this point. The scenes are tied together by a common sin, an adulterous affair between a young woman, Hester Prynne, and her minister, Reverend Dimmesdale. Each scaffold scene is different in terms of two key aspects of true repentance; is the sinner confessing freely of his own volition and is the confession made publicly.
In each case of public confession on the three scaffolds the sin is the same, the adulterous affair between Hester and Dimmesdale.In thefirst scaffold scene, Hester standswith natural dignity and force of character? (49), but soon the stares from the crowd cause her to ‘turn her eyes downward?(56). While this so-called act of repentance is made publicly, certainly it is done unwillingly. Even so, while the next seven years are truly difficult times her demonstration of repentance at the scaffold seems to free her of much of the guilt and emotional turmoil caused by her sin. Conversely Reverend Dimmesdale, guilty of the same adulterous affair, isovercome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe is [staring] at the scarlet token on his naked breast?(136). Having literally branded a scarlet letter on his chest Dimmesdale lives the next seven years suffering alone through the inner turmoil and u…

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