Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Theme of Sin in his Writing Cynda BevisProfessor OwensEnglish 110215 July 2010
Background: Hawthorne was born in Salem Massachusetts in 1804 to a family that took part in the Salem Witch trials. His writing interests come from his ancestral history and Puritan background. He used many different writing techniques and themes but focused on the use of sin in his literature.
The Scarlet Letter- Sin and Punishment The Minister’s Black Veil- Secret Sin The Marble Faun- Guilty Factor Young Goodman Brown- Initiation into Sin The Egotism- Omnipresence of Sin Roger Malvin’s Burial- Concealed Sin Themes of Sin:
Unpardonable Sin Most common in Hawthorne’s work. “The separation of the intellect from the heart” Hawthorne's belief that Unpardonable Sin is committed when one breaks away from the "magnetic chain of humanity.” This is found throughout many characters in Hawthorne’s short stories.
Has a child with the town Minister and is married to Roger Chillingworth. Is punished for committing adultery, shunned before the town, and has to wear Scarlet Letter “A” on her chest forever. Her appearance is not affected by sin but her mind is reminded by pearl and her soul feels shameful. Hester Prynne
Town Minister who fathered Hester Prynne’s child. Suffers from sin most because he lives in secrecy. Preaches about the sin he committed but will not admit. Was tortured by the vindictive Chillingsworth and carved an “A” on his chest to cope with his sin. Sin kills him because he suffered in his mind, body, and soul. Arthur Dimmesdale
Roger Chillingworth Hester’s husband who was presumed dead but came in town to find his wife being shunned on a pedestal. Never made it known that he was Hester’s husband so he could seek revenge. Let vengeance and his sinful actions take over him and becomes marked as evil.
Represents sin. Daughter of Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester’s painful penance of her adultery but beautiful joy of her life. Pearl
Minister in the Black Veil Short story that is written with the theme sin. Reverend Hooper decides to wear a black veil that covers his face the rest of his mortal life. Town judges his evil look and believes he is hiding behind secret sin which he preached about. Reader never knows if the minister is hiding behind sin or teaching the town a valuable lesson.
Decided to wear a black veil that covered his entire face and does not give reason behind his actions. The town believes he is hiding and assumes he is evil and becomes scared of him. Suffers with loneliness because the town judged him and did not face their secret sin, instead, focused on his. Reverend Hooper
Young Goodman Brown Focuses on the initiation into sin. Shows that under a certain influence, there is sin and evil in everyone. Uses symbolism to bring the devil into the community through the environment and people. Purpose of this story was to show that everyone is capable of sin, but not everyone accepts sin.
The Discovery of the omnipresence of sin. Hawthorne uses symbols to show that the disease the man is diagnosed with is egotism, and he has a disease of the mind, in the body and sin. Once a man is overcomes his serpent inside, and misery in sin, he is healed. The Egotism
The tortures of concealed sin. He shows how sin left unredeemed can torment a person to the brink of insanity. The sin committed was not leaving a man to die on his wishes, but not honoring his death in the woods. Because of the guilt and sin kept inside, he suffers a life time and tragedy by killing his son. Roger Malvin’s Burial
Beneficial results of sin. Compared to Adam and Eve and the sins in each character like The Scarlet Letter. Love story that focuses on purity, hidden evil, and darkened circumstances. The Marble Faun
Summary of Sin Much of his work focused on the theme of sin and was based in the Puritan time period. Sin was the central focus of many stories, traits of many characters, and hidden twist behind endings.
Works Cited Fairbanks, Henry G. “Sin, Free Will, and ‘Pessimism’ in Hawthorne.” Modern Language Association. PMLA, Vol. 71, No. 5 (2010): 975-989. 10 July 2010. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Scarlet Letter." Anthology of American Literature. New York: Prentice Hall, 2003. 1028-1148. 16 June 2010. Marks, Barry A. “The Origin of Original Sin in Hawthorne’s Fiction.” University of California Press. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 14, No. 4 (2010):359-362. 11 July 2010. McCullen, Joseph T., John C Guilds. “The Unpardonable Sin in Hawthorne: A Re – Examination.” University of California Press. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 15, No. 3 (2010):221-237. 11 July 2010. Miller, James E., Jr. “Hawthorne and Melville: The Unpardonable Sin.” Modern Language Association. PMLA, Vol. 70, No. 1 (2010):91-114. 11 July 2010. Reuben, Paul. Perspectives in American Literature- Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). Web. 10 July 2010. Smith, Nicole. Article Myriad. “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. ---. Article Myriad. "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Effects of Sin on the Mind, Body, and Soul. 2010. Web. 16 June 2010. Williams, Roger. “The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience” 1643. Web 17 June 2010.