As Yvor Winters has pointed out, the Puritans, believing in predestination, viewed the commission of any sin as evidence of the sinner’s corruption and preordained damnation.The harsh determinism and moralism of those early years softened somewhat by Hawthorne’s day, and during the twelve years he spent in contemplation and semi-isolation, he worked out his own notions about human will and human nature.This will ensure that you choose something substantial and relevant.
In , Hawthorne proves to be closer to Paul Tillich than to Cotton Mather or Jonathan Edwards.
Like Tillich, Hawthorne saw sin not as an act but as a state—what existentialists refer to as alienation and what Tillich describes as a threefold separation from God, other humans, and self.
” Hawthorne’s craftsmanship is splendidly demonstrated in itself is repeatedly entwined into the narrative as a symbol of sin and shame, as a reminder of Hester’s ability with the needle and her capability with people, and in Dimmesdale’s case, as evidence of the searing effects of secret guilt.
Hawthorne often anticipates later developments with hints or forewarnings: There is, for example, the suggestion that Pearl lacks complete humanity, perhaps because she has never known great sorrow, but at the end of the story when Dimmesdale dies, Hawthorne writes, “as [Pearl’s] tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.” Hawthorne’s skill as a symbolist is fully in evidence.
Yet, although she is apparently isolated from normal association with “decent” folk, Hester, having come to terms with her sin, is inwardly reconciled to God and self; she ministers to the needy among her townspeople, reconciling herself with others until some observe that her now stands for “Able.” Arthur Dimmesdale, her secret lover, and Roger Chillingworth, her secret husband, move much more freely in society than she can and even enjoy prestige: Dimmesdale as a beloved pastor, Chillingworth as a respected physician.
However, Dimmesdale’s secret guilt gnaws so deeply inside him that he is unable to make his peace with God or to feel at ease with his fellow citizens.
The characters in are reminiscent of a number of Hawthorne’s shorter works.
Dimmesdale bears similarities to Young Goodman Brown who, having once glimpsed the darker nature of humankind, must forevermore view humanity as corrupt and hypocritical.
It may also be the most typical of his work, the strongest statement of his recurrent themes, and an excellent example of his craftsmanship.
The main theme in , as in most of Hawthorne’s work, is that of sin and its effects both on the individual and on society.