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The Scarlet Letter Morality Issue

Through Hawthorne, the book The Scarlet Letter is written about love, sin, and most of all morals. Hawthorne creates many different perspectives on characters and their views. His vivid descriptions of the main trio of characters allow the reader to make their own decisions on who is morally right or wrong. Is Hester a victim, or a temptress, or maybe Dimmesdale is in the wrong for falling for the temptress. Chillingworth, who is at first thought to be the victim, but in the end the villain? Through Hawthorne’s writing we the reader must decide on the morality issue among Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth.

Hester, who is essentially the main character in The Scarlet Letter, therefore, is the most vividly described character in the book. In committing an act so looked down upon by her community in Salem, she must be burdened by an “A” on her chest. As Hester suffered greatly for her transgression, the citizens suffered as well, whether knowing or not, through their hypocritical and cruel punishment. She was morally wrong in what she did, but Hester Prynne was honest enough to reveal the adulterous acts that she committed. She became more accepted in her community as she accepted herself and the “A” on her chest. We all have sinned, but if we do not admit to our sins we won’t be forgiven.

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The Reverend Dimmesdale said, “But still, methinks, it must need to be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is than to cover it all up in his heart.” This statement is true because she began to reconstruct her life. The community began calling her sister of Mercy, and the “A” was said to stand for “Able.” Though Hester was morally wrong in her act, she was morally right in accepting her wrong.

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This leads us to the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the man who assisted in ruining Hester’s reputation. Though, a holy man, and a man who is very much revered by the people of Salem, he commits a sin in which goes totally against the words he preaches. His choice to keep his black secret locked deep within his soul resulted in the deterioration of his health. Each time he would deliver a sermon to his congregation, he grew weaker and more ashamed of what he did. In doing so, he chose his congregation over his health, to remain the most respected man in the community. A choice that caused him to suffer much more than Hester and Chillingworth ever did. Dimmesdale was morally wrong in his actions, but in keeping this enormous secret from the community, the town of Salem was better off. This was the moral thing to do for the good of the community. His soul became blackened by his secret as well as from Roger Chillingworth’s evil torture.

Chillingworth is probably the most mysterious character in the book because of how he changes as the book goes on. He went from a kind and gentleman to an evil man who many thoughts worked with “Black Magic.” It was in fact the largest sin of all in Chillingworth’s mission to inflict torturous revenge on the reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. In a quote from Dimmesdale in the book, he says “That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart.” In doing these terrible acts of evil it is stated throughout the book that Chillingworth was growing uglier and uglier as time went on. This was a sin that he himself was affected by his devilish acts. In the beginning, Roger Chillingworth seems to not be in the wrong, though in the end, he becomes the most immoral one of them all.

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When you think about this book, it’s about morals, sin, and how morally they handle their sin. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, it is the criminal that seems good and the good that seems criminal. With Hester accepting her sin she is forgiven, therefore she did the morally right thing. Dimmesdale is a slightly different case. He might be wrong for committing the sin and keeping it a secret, but in keeping his sin a secret for the well-being of the community, he is forgiven. Then there is Chillingworth, a man who was taken over by the devil himself. He is a murderer. He killed Dimmesdale through his “Black Magic” and torture. That in my opinion is the ultimate sin, and definitely morally wrong.

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The Scarlet Letter Morality Issue. (2021, Mar 01). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from