Discuss the role of sin in The Scarlet Letter. How does it impact the narrative and how is it defined by Hawthrone through Prynne & Dimmesdale?
The idea of sin is discussed by Hawthorne in two different manners - sin as perceived by society and sin as aimed against the individual. While Hester Prynne is required to be outwardly responsible for her sin as society views it and flourishes under the reconciliation she received, Dimmesdale suffers inwardly with his guilt and unconfessed sin. Hawthorne does not only warn against this inward suffering and shame though. Through the development of Chillingworth, he also shows that purposeful sin against another is worse than a sin perceived by society. Chillingworth is considered the worse sinner because he plans revenge against Dimmesdale, whereas Hester and Dimmesdale followed their heart, only sinning in the eyes of society.
Another aspect of sin in the Scarlet Letter is found in the moral, "Be true, be true, be true." Though Hester was ostracized by society for her actions, she was consistently true to herself and her heart, which saved her from the suffering experienced by Dimmesdale for his hidden sin and hypocrisy, presenting himself to be something he is not.