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The Scarlet Letter

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When one ponders the thought of innocence, one thinks of a young child who has not been privy to the outside world. Innocence denotes one who were to argue fault, or to be even more specific, one who does not sin. Yet if one were to argue that everyone sins, than that must mean that the term innocent is just an illusion of reality. It is one’s perception of these terms, which in it defines whether one is innocent, or one who sins.

In The Scarlet Letter, the term sin is clearly defined, but it is defined by those who hold power in the community, and not the community itself. Yet one could argue that it is the community as a whole which ascribes to this theory, but their elders have ultimately dictated it upon them.

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The theme “Is anyone truly innocent,” is prevalent throughout the book, but is only obvious to the reader, and not to the folk of yester year.

We as students of the 20th century have the luxury of education, whereby through debate and discussion we can assert our own opinions and aspirations without the fear of persecution. Innocence in the book is rare, and where it is prevalent is not truly accepted by God. The idea that Hester Prynne would not reveal the name of her lover to the Governor may seem sinful to some, but as a student of the 20th century, it is an admirable feat to which she is shunned through the community.

She exclaimed on the demand of the guilty name of the man to whom she acted in sin with, “It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony as well as mine.” As she stood on the pedestal, the people of the community cried out in vain for her testimony of the man she had conceived child with. With these pressures forced upon her, in addition to a prison term, Hester Prynne was able to sacrifice herself, to protect the minister from being hung for adultery. If we speak of innocence, this in itself portrays a woman of great strength, who understands that her testimony would destroy a man who is truly a saint.

The minister of this story, is a man with a caring heart. His main concern is with God, and how he can use his knowledge and inspirations to bring together the Indians, and the community to which he resides. He has of course sinned with Hester Prynne, but that is judged by a community which not only fears witches and satin’s evil, but it as well believes that God will truly punish those who have sinned. Hester Prynne’s husband even believes that God will punish those who have sinned, he states “ Think not that I shall interfere with Heaven’s own method of retribution, or, to my own loss, betray him not to gripe of human law.” If the minister was truly a sinner, why then was God not punishing him? Possibly because God needed him on earth to bring about peace, and deliver his message from heaven. We can of course only speculate who are sinners and who are innocent, as this is in the eye of the beholder. It appears that the people of 17th century Boston see no innocent people, if they have.

In society there are many sinners. This is easy to say because everyone perceives sinning differently. Catholics view unwed couples having sex as sinning, where a person not connected to Catholicism finds the act natural and pleasant, but not a sin. In essence we are a sinning human race, but always in the eyes of someone else. This however does not necessarily make us bad people, it only allows for people to judge other people by their own standards and morals.

We can view some sinners clearly, as the public may shun them and decorated with symbols to demonstrate their scathing acts. Yet also in society are those sinners, which are not available for public humiliation. Politicians, particularly in the 17th century, were people of honor, truth and great leadership. But even though they are held with great admiration, they too can be sinners. They may not be adulterers, yet some are, but sin in different ways. Blackmail and power politics very much existed in these times; this in itself should be redemption of innocence. Appearances can be utterly deceiving, as shown in Hester Prynne’s husband. He came to the city of Boston to find his wife, but on hearing that she had done a child from another man, quickly disguised himself as someone else.

His purpose was to find the man who had fathered his wife’s baby, and thus revenge will serve its course. The people of this town perceived him as a great medicine man, sent to them to cure them of illness and sickness. In reality he was plotting to find and have his way with the man that his wife had an affair with. He concealed his identity by lying to those around him. He even forced his wife into silence about his identity by threatening “Shouldst thou fail me in this, beware! His frame, his position, his life, will be in my hands. Beware!” This is a fair example of a sinner, that is unknown to the rest of society, and yet he is the worst of the sinners because he is hidden, and thus harmful to the unsuspecting.

As the man of the church, the minister in the tale has sinned with Heater Prynne. Innocence is something, which should be cherished and held in high esteem, and at the same instance, sinners should be dealt with according to their level of sin. We live in a society full of sinners, but as society has evolved so too has our morals and values. A sin in the 17th century may be viewed as a simple mistake in the 20th century. It is our own personal perception which defines a sin, nonetheless it is also important to remember that it is the duty of the governing body of our community to legislate those sins which are expectable and which are punishable by law.


Cite this The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter. (2018, Jun 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-scarlet-letter-essay-example/

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