The reasons behind the leaders want Hester to confess her sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

Confession, in the Christian tradition, the acknowledgment of righteousness in public or private, is regarded as significant to obtain divine forgiveness. The need for confession is frequently stressed in the Bible. According to John 1:9, the word “confess” simply means to agree with God. The word in Greek means to say the same thing as another, which is to agree with, assent. It means to become crystal clear, not means to ask for forgiveness. So, confession is a formal statement admitting one’s own guiltiness, which one has to admit in front of other people. There are puritan people In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, to whom confession is an integral part of life, which is why they want Hester, the protagonist of the novel, to confess her sin.

Christian people believe that God has sent them for salvation, and that is why the Christian minister thinks that no man should go into hell, and it is essential for the minister to ensure that every human being will enter into heaven. To achieve heaven, one needs to confess every sin he or she commits. Salvation can be found only by the act of confession, and because of the fact, the Christian elders are so desperate to make people confess their sins.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for others so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

(James 5:16)

It is quite clear that confession is inevitable if one commits any sort of sin. In The Scarlet Letter, the readers see that Hester Prynne is convicted for committing adultery, and she is given a lifelong punishment, and the nature of the punishment is putting on the letter A in the bosom part of her dress. But in that event, the readers can hardly find any trace of confession rather, that is the punishment for committing the sinful act. She does not confess the name of her fellow sinner, neither does she willingly confess anything regarding the sin. She gets punishment due to becoming the mother of a child despite her husband is not with her for two years. So, assuredly she commits something sinful, which requires confession in order to emancipate herself from carrying the burden of that immoral act.

If the readers stop for a while and think of regarding the consequence that if she does not confess, she will not be punished. Other people of that society will think that adultery is not a heinous act, and eventually, they will start involving themselves in doing it. But if she confesses, she will get punished in front of society, and then arguably, there will be a huge positive impact on people’s psyche. They will think time and again before getting involved in it. So, Hester’s confession has significance. According to other religious views as well, adultery is one of the abominable sins. In Islam, it said that,

Adultery is one of the three justifications for killing a person, according to Muhammad.


The description of hell in Dante’s The Divine Comedy shows that people who will commit the sin of adultery will be suffering in the second circle of hell. In Puritanism, the punishment for adulterous activity is also death. But the Puritan leaders do not give it to Hester, and the reason they show are

This woman is youthful and fair, and doubtlessly she was strongly tempted to her fall; – and that, moreover, as is most likely, her husband may be at the bottom of the sea.

(Chapter: 3)

Many readers may oppose these reasons. It is because she is matured and married, and so she can avoid that sort of activity by restricting herself. They can also criticize the Puritan leaders as well since the leaders should show more logical reasons rather than showing the lesser ones. For instance, they could say that they are not going to give her the capital punishment as she has got a child. But, unfortunately, they did not say anything regarding the child.

Hester starts involving herself in social activities, and she is contemplating that by doing that sort of activity, she can emancipate herself from the burden. But in Christianity, no one can emancipate him/herself without the act of confession. So, in that case, she needs to confess her with a view to getting rid of the heavyweight of that sinful act, over and above that attaining heaven; otherwise, all the things she is doing thinking that she will get redemption will be nipped in the bud.

One should also seriously consider the matter of her avoiding the act of confession and disclosing the name of her fellow sinner. Hester loves Dimmesdale very much, and she is expecting her to be reunited with him. She thinks that if she confesses and tells the name of her fellow sinner, then her confession will implicate Dimmesdale, and all her speculations regarding being reunited with Dimmesdale will get evaporated eventually. To conclude, since confession is an integral part of the Christian universe, Hester, to get emancipation from the burden of the sinful act she committed, needs to confess, and the leaders want that in order to make the society a blessed one. That matter can be interpreted from a different perspective. Other religious viewpoints will support that restrictiveness undoubtedly, which the rational modernist people will not at all since they believe in the factor that it is the very “I” which matters the most.

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