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Frost

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Hawthorne’s Judgment of Sin and Punishment Based on the Puritan Belief As Seen in “Scarlet Letter”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Puritan background and his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts strongly influenced his stories and writing style. Many of Hawthorne’s stories hold ties to the past and characterize the Puritan society, including Scarlet Letter. Puritans followed “their own rigorous moral and religious strictures…” , which led many Puritans to believe most people are inherently evil and deserve punishment (Hunt 26). Puritans believed sin’s “penalty thereof is death” (Hawthorne 59). In Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne characterized the Puritan view of sin, the punishment of sin, and how the punishment of sin revealed Hester’s courage, but led to Dimmesdale’s demise. Hester and Dimmesdale committed the same sin and “while Hester’s sin is noticeable to all, Dimmesdale’s sin is hidden”(Londhe 2). The sin itself does not alter Hester and Dimmesdale as much as it altered how the individual copes with sin and the punishment that follows the sin. The Puritan belief system influenced Hawthorne’s writing even though he “took Puritan doctrine and psychologized it”(Barna 3). Hawthorne felt the Puritan belief lacked a tolerance for sin, and “he dwelt on the cruelty of Puritans in his works” (Barna 2). Puritan’s believed everyone sinned and Hawthorne’s Puritan background led him to address sin in his writing. The common belief of the time states that “man is born into his world basically evil and in need of a savior” (Diorio 28). Every person commits transgressions and exhibits sinful actions, but Puritans condemned sinners excessively. Hawthorne thought Puritans beliefs expressed hypocrisy because “we are sinners indistinguishable from one another” (Donoghue 220). In The Scarlet Letter, “the sinful characters (Hester) are condemned by the community to which they belong…...

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