Scarlet Letter (Reaction Paper)

“…through one man sin entered the world . . . For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners…” Romans 5:12, 19

Sin is unavoidable. People are born sinners because of the initial transgressions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But is sin only a connection between a sinner and his God or can society meddle with it?

In the novel the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne was imprisoned in a society that considers itself not only capable of judging a person’s sin but also one that needs to punish it. The Puritan belief: the belief that sin not only permeates our world but that it should be actively sought out and exposed so that it can be punished publicly was strictly followed in Hester’s time and place. Thus, it leads the way to the different things that happened to a woman who had sinned and needed to accept the judgment not just by God but by the society which considers her as a “living sermon”, a sinner that must not be imitated.

Admitting that she had sinned and been exposed in the scaffold was absolutely a torturing experience for Hester, but absorbing all the judgment of the people was more tormenting. It was as if an evidence that sin is not a separation from God but a separation from the people. Once a person made a mistake, all the things he built for a long time (friendship, trust, acceptance, etc.,) will just collapse for seconds. It’s just like saying that commit a mistake, and everything would be different.

However, by embroidering the scarlet A with beautiful gold thread and amazing artistry, can we conclude that rather than ashamed, Hester was proud of her sin? I believe being proud is different from acceptance. By putting the scarlet letter, Hester accepts her humanity rather than struggles against it. She accepted her “sin” which originated in her acknowledgment of her human need for love, following her husband’s unexplained failure to arrive in Boston and his probable death. Hence, this suggests that being fully human means not denying one’s human nature. And this is what Hester did, to take them as they are rather than resisting them. This acceptance, made Hester different from her lover Dimmesdale, who chose to hide his sin. Because of keeping his sin, Dimmesdale suffer from spiritual and moral crisis although Dimmesdale’s situation is also different because he had an image to protect for his congregation. Nevertheless, still from the dissimilarity of the choice of these two characters, we can see a truth in the Puritan belief that exposing sin is meant to help the sinner. The scaffold thus served as an important symbol of the difference between Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s situations that is it helps to establish an ironic contrast in choosing between public torments (Hester) or inner anguish (Dimmesdale).

Hester’s acknowledgment of her sin was also evident when she chose to stay at Boston, the place of her crime. This act shows either Hester’s readiness for public judgment       or disbelief in the power of her fellow men and women to judge her. Hester didn’t flee or choose to live a life of lies in order to resist judgment. She sure knows that whatever she does, the sin she committed was already there and she can’t do anything to remove it.

The sin itself was both a guilty act and an act of affection, a problematic combination of love and “evil.” The two symbols of Hester’s sin proved to be an amalgamation of contempt and strange enchantment.  The existence of her child, Pearl, makes the presence of the scarlet letter redundant.  Hence, Pearl is “the scarlet letter endowed with life.” However, the townspeople chose to focus on the scarlet letter thus neglecting the more real consequence of Hester’s act who is Pearl.

In the novel, Hester was able to make beauty and treasure out of her sin. But is it right to consider a product of sin a blessing? Is Pearl a blessing? The Bible attests that children are not result of a sin but of God’s blessings. “Sons are inheritance from God; the fruitage of the belly is a reward”- Psalm 127:3. Thus, Hester was right in accepting Pearl and considering her as a treasure, finding beauty among the flaws like what she did with the scarlet letter which she embroidered artistically.

“Though the sins of you people should prove to be as SCARLET, they will be made just like SNOW”-Isaiah 1:18. The life of Hester had been painted with scarlet but because of her belief that her Creator can change her, she was able to straighten up her life again. In the end, it is really up to us to consider how we can make the best out of this imperfect life. I believe it is not how people will judge us and how they will torture us. Ultimately, it is still between a person and God because it is God who can give salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. –Roman 6:23.

Original Title: Judge Me Not

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