Comment on The theme of crime and punishment in the novel The Scarlet Letter

Question: Comment on the theme of crime and punishment in the novel “The Scarlet Letter”


Theme deals with the central idea of any literary work. “The Scarlet Letter” (1850) is basically a story of crime, sin, and punishment. It speaks of the insult or humiliation of a woman who has violated the classical and statutory law of a community dedicated to maintaining the authority of the law.

Sin regenerates the characters

“The Scarlet Letter” has been upheld the theme of crime and punishment throughout the character of Hester and Dimmesdale.  According to Christian doctrine, it is said that regeneration has happened to a greater sin like Adam and Eve. They had eaten the forbidden fruit and got banishment from the Garden of Eden. Both Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit but in Christianity Eve is a more sinner person than Adam. In the novel, the same things have been reoccurred by the character Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester has endured public humiliation and got imprisonment. The sin has made her able to do better work for the community. Dimmesdale is the person who is spiritually regenerated by his sin. So it is clear that in the novel crime and punishment have regenerated the characters.

“The angel and apostle of the coming revelation must be a woman, indeed, but lofty, pure, and beautiful; and wise”

More Notes of The Scarlet Letter

Sin differentiate the social norms

Hester is a young and beautiful person who committed an adultery relationship with the young governor Dimmesdale. In the case of punishment, sin differentiates the social norms of the puritan society in the seventeen century. Both are the sinner but Hester is the only one who suffers from the crime. Otherwise, Arthur Dimmesdale is free from all the sufferings in his life. Religious law should be equal to both the sinner but the puritan leader has diversified to their application of religious rules to the sinner.

Examine critically Hawthorne’s puritanic attitude in The scarlet letter

“People brought all their sorrows and perplexities, and be sought her counsel, as one who had herself gone through a mighty trouble.”

Teaches the moral lesson

The novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne has mentioned the universal theme of crime and punishment in his famous novel “The Scarlet Letter”. We know that all the literary work has given us the moral lesson through literary delight. The novel has a philosophical moral lesson that is if we commit any heinous crime we have to suffer punishment and after the punishment, the sinner person would be a rectified person.

Dimmesdale’s mental frustration

Arthur Dimmesdale is the hero of the novel. He is different from the other hero he has no heroic power and he is a faint-hearted person. For his cowardly attitude, Hester has suffered a lot in her entire life. But in the middle of the novel, we find him a person of Self-loathing. At night he has gone to the scaffold and wants to confess his sin but for fear of public humiliation, he was not able to confess his sin. At the climax in the novel entitled the name of “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” where Dimmesdale has able to confess his sin to the public gaze.

“It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him!”

 Criticized the law of puritanism

Nathaniel Hawthorne is a Christian but not a blind believer of Puritanism. He has been criticized for the puritan custom and law of the church. The fundamental doctrine of Christianity is forgiveness but in the novel, we see that forgiveness is the far cry Hester does not get any sympathy from society. Seventeen-century puritan society has been bitterly criticized by the novel “The Scarlet Letter”.


To conclude, we must say that crime and punishment have a great thematic validity from the novelist’s point of view.  He has thrown a message to the reader that far away from the sin and led a peaceful life.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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