The True Sinners
The main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and the
Puritan society represented by the townspeople, all sinned. The story is a study of the
effects of sin on the hearts and minds of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. Sin
strengthens Hester, humanizes Dimmesdale, and turns Chillingworth into the villain.
Hester Prynne’s sin was adultery. This sin was regarded very seriously by the Puritans,
and was often punished by death. Hester’s punishment was to endure a public shaming on
a scaffold for three hours and wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest for the rest of her life
in the town. Although Hawthorne does not pardon Hester’s sin, he interprets it in a
diminished way that is less serious than of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. Hester’s sin
was a sin of desire. This sin was openly acknowledged as she wore the “A” on her chest.
Although she is not justified, Hester did not commit the greatest sin of the novel. She did
not deliberately commit her sin or mean to hurt others. Hester’s sin is that her passions
and love were of more importance to her than the Puritan moral code. This is shown
when she says to Dimmesdale, “What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so!
We said so to each other!” Hester fully acknowledged her guilt and displayed it with
pride to the world. This was obvious by the way she displayed the scarlet letter. It was
elaborately designed as if to show Hester was proud of what she had done. Hester is
indeed a sinner; adultery is not a minor affair, even today. On the other hand, her sin has
brought her not evil, but good. Her charity to the poor, her comfort to the broken-hearted,
her unquestionable presence in times of trouble are all direct results of her quest for
repentance. Her salvation also lies in the truth. She tells Dimmesdale of Chillingworth’s
real identity, keeping it a secret before, to aid in her salvation. Her pursuit in telling the
truth is evident in the lines, “In all things else, I have striven to be true! Truth was the one
virtue, which I might have held fast, and did hold fast, through all extremity save when
thy good--the life--they fame--were put in question! Then I consented a deception. But a
lie is never good, even though death threaten the other side!” Even though Hester’s sin is
the one the book is titled after and centered around, it is not nearly the worst sin
committed. Hester learns from her sin, and grows strong, a direct result from her
punishment. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not
go. “Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and
they had made her strong.
..” Hester also deceived Dimmesdale, also committing the sin