The Scarlet Letter

The Sin of Beauty in The Scarlet Letter 11th Grade

Beauty, in every form and aspect, is regarded by the general population as the eighth deadly sin. This becomes strikingly evident throughout the examination of Hester’s plight. Hester Prynne, a radiant example of elegance, begins to find reconciliation in the eyes of the public only once she extinguishes her flame of beauty. Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s condemnation of what Hester’s beauty entails is sharply contrasted with the public’s condemnation of beauty itself.

The public believed that beauty was the direct path to downfall, sin, and ignominy. At the very beginning of the novel, at the height of Hester’s shame and disgrace, she is described as “tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale” (40). This dazzling disposition, however, becomes a source of downfall for Hester. Her blatant refusal to look the part of a penitent Puritan is ill-received by the public. They interpret beauty as sin, as made evident through the self-professed Puritan saints, one of whom suggests branding the forehead of Hester; this other resident was “the ugliest as well as the most pitiless” (39). Those lacking beauty see themselves as the most worthy to pass judgment, condemning those who, in their eyes, are...

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