Sin, hidden or otherwise, Is something society has dealt with since the very beginning of organized religion. When one has sinned, it is human Instinct to keep it locked up inside oneself lest the ugliness if it be revealed to the world. This tendency Is not only present In every day life, but is also present In the Puritan setting of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. ‘Hidden sin’ Is fairly literal In this novel, as mall characters such as Hester.
Timescale, and Chlorinating have ‘sinful’ secrets which they allow to fester within themselves and allow to break them down. Hawthorne shows us how their lives change for the worse as these sins remain hidden and how we can learn from their blunders. The least obvious of the three secret sinners is Hester Prone. Although her biggest sin, adultery, is public knowledge, she also has secrets that build upon that original moral transgression.
For example, Hester withholds the fact that Roger Chlorinating is her husband from Timescale until the very end of the novel.
By doing this, she allows the love of her life and the father of her child to suffer for seven long years under the hands of her vengeful spouse hen, In fact, she has absolutely no right or obligation to. By going after Timescale as he does, Chlorinating breaches the terms of the agreement he and Hester make. On page 53, Chlorinating says, “Recognize me not, by word, by sign, by look…
Should thou fall me In this, beware! [Damselfly’s] fame, his position, his life will be in my hands.
” However, he begins torturing Timescale before Hester even has a chance to blink. By keeping this secret to herself, Hester can almost be considered a conspirator to murder. However, Hester is not alone in her suffering. Arthur Timescale, local reverend and fellow adulterer, is also affected. Unlike Hester, however, he does not have a scarlet letter on the breast of his shirt for the world to see.
Instead, it is believed that he has burned the letter into his own chest as a form of punishment for his violation of God’s law. On page 176, it reads, “Most of the spectators testified to having seen, on the breast of the unhappy minister a scarlet letter, the very semblance of that worn by Hester Prone, Imprinted in the flesh. ” Through punishments such as these, along with vigils and repeated fasting, Damselfly’s body soon begins to deteriorate.
None of this would have happened had he taken his stand on the scaffold with Hester seven years prior, so we can once again see how hidden sin can twist the human form emotionally as well as physically. But not even Arthur Damselfly’s fate is the cruelest to be described in The Scarlet Letter. Roger Chlorinating starts off with, a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who has so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself… (42). ” As the novel continues, however, one can notice to only his emotional self changing, but his physical self.
When Hester sees him collecting herbs, she notes that, “The former aspect of an Intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which was what she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished, and been succeeded by an eager, searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look” (116). These very changes emerge from the hidden sin that Chlorinating carries with him: the sin of wrath, of revenge. Though he promises never to seek vengeance on Hester or Pearl, he vows that no matter what he will find eave sought truth in books; as I have sought gold in alchemy. ” And that he does.
In some way, almost by chance, the Reverend Timescale acquaints himself with the physician. Timescale takes him into his confidence, takes him into his home, and unwittingly allows the demon to ravage his soul. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, the twisted old doctor tears apart every shred, every scrape of the poor minister’s being in search for the secret he so longs to find. Little does Chlorinating know that by doing this, by embodying the sin of wrath, he seals his own fate as well. After Damselfly’s final stand and death on the scaffold, Chlorinating, “… Costively withered up, shriveled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight… (177). ” He has so long devoted his entire existence to doing the Devil’s work by torturing the minister; the “Black Man” himself calls less than a year later to collect his dues. So by keeping his identity and his sin secret, Chlorinating had pays the ultimate price. Guilt, wrath, and hatred are all very strong emotions present in The Scarlet Letter. Each of the main characters experiences one, if not more, throughout his or her life and ends up the worse for it.
From subtle signs like the harshness in Hester features and personality to the full-blown deformation of Clownishness’s being, we can see Just how awful a toll hidden sin can take on an individual. And all that can truly be said is, “Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred (177). ” Let the restless skeletons free from their dark closets. Let the burdens be lifted from weary shoulders. Let the sin, however evil it may be, be dragged into the light of day lest it drag its victim into the black of eternal night.