Sin Is Diseased Essay

1518 words - 7 pages

“Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease,” stated Bill Maher which in retrospect, would be a wise statement as sin used to be the face of the devil to many settled in Puritan estates along the eastern front of the “New World.” Sin is commonly interpreted as being unforgivably criminal and alters everything it touches. As sin seems to spread like the bubonic plague in certain circumstances, it can affect people other than its host and be directed through punishment. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne expresses the theme of sin through mortifying symbols that are repeatedly brought up and connected because they are the direct results of sin. The most prominent symbol is the ...view middle of the document...

Hawthorne once again pin points the importance of the scarlet token in chapter five, “From first to last, in short, Hester Prynne had always this dreadful agony in feeling a human eye upon the token; the spot never grew callous; it seemed, on the contrary, to grow more sensitive with daily torture... in that brief interval, she had sinned anew. Had Hester sinned alone?”(page 79). According to this passage, Hester Prynne is receiving ignominy from the letter for her sin making it a direct result of her actions, and is the most noticeable feature of her appearance. Hester is also described as sinning anew because she feels a rush from people looking at her gold and red “A”. Lastly, in chapter 18, Hester's connection with sin and the letter is strengthened when she rips off her letter during a significant meeting with Dimmesdale. “But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel, which some ill fated wanderer might pick up and thenceforth be haunted by strange phantoms of guilt, sinkings of the heart, and the unaccountable misfortune. The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit,” (page 182). When speaking of the ill fated wanderer, it is stated that if a passerby was to scoop up the letter, then they would be haunted with signs of sin and experience depravity themself. Equally important, Hester's relief is described after she tosses the letter and says that a burden is lifted from her spirit, both meaning that when she tosses the letter, she is relieved of her sin and feels like a fresh, new person. Besides the letter, Hester endures another form of punishment that represents the sinfulness of the story.
One of the primary things explained in the novel is Hester's punishment for her actions by

taking stand on a platform while she is shamed by others. The scaffold is part of the aftermath and appears in many major parts of the book. In chapter 2 it is introduced, “This scaffold constituted a portion of a penal machine...it was, in short, the platform of the pillory; and above it rose the framework of that instrument of discipline... In Hester Prynne's instance, however, as not infrequently in other cases, her sentence bore, that she should stand a certain time upon the platform,” (page 52). As a result of her sin, the scaffold is a form of cruel and emotionally draining punishment for Hester. It also is where the novel begins, which is based around sin, and is described as a place for sinners when they have committed an unlawful act of insubordination. “And this, while standing on the scaffold, in this vain show of expiation, Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if theuniverse were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart,” (Chapter 12, page 134-135). Not coincidentally, Dimmesdale ends up at the scaffold one night, imagining his own ignominy and reflection of sin which ultimately causes him to feel pain and...

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