A Search for Truth in the Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter deals with a plethora of issues not only prominent when the story was written but also prominent today. Some issues being: sin, corruption in society, guilt, revenge, hypocrisy and, above all truth. Hawthorne himself addresses the reader in saying, “Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait, whereby the worst may be inferred (Hawthorne)”. This plead for truth begs for all of humanity to realize that, though sin may be bad, sin makes humans, human. A person can only be seen for who they really are if they show themselves at their worst. This idea of revealing a truth is shown throughout The Scarlet Letter in the characters Hester, Pearl, Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, and the puritan community in which they all live in. Hester and Pearl, seen as the most sinful in the town, are actually the most truthful. Hester openly embraces her sin and stands on the scaffold, “that instrument of discipline”(63), for her sin to be seen by all, and she never hides her scarlet letter ‘A’, “so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom” (61). She only lets others see her for who she really is. This truthful trait is passed down to her daughter Pearl who, like her mother, shows only her true character. Pearl was raised outside the Puritan community and grew up without the strict religious binding that the rest of the children in her town grew up with. Pearl is playful, acts like a child and, “seemed rather an airy sprite” (94). To the Puritan community this appears odd compared to the straight laced, disciplined children they are used to. They are often alarmed and almost frightened by her “alien” behavior. Mr. Wilson even asks Pearl if she is, “one of those naughty elves or fairies who [he] thought to have left behind [him]” (109). But, this is who Pearl really is and she doesn’t
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