The Scarlet Letter questions definition of “sin”

The Scarlet Letter (1995) questions the true definition of “sin.”

In the classic The Scarlet Letter (1995), it questions the Puritan’s view of what is divine-like and the true meaning of “sin.”

The film is set in 1642 and portrays human nature as being strongly devoted to God and upholding morals. Puritans believe that humans were to uphold all that the bible promoted and women were to repress their sexuality (an interesting topic which I will discuss another time).

In the film, before Hester Prynne becomes involved with the community’s minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, she practices and upholds the Puritan ways.

After committing adultery, one of the most frowned-upon sin in Puritan’s eyes, her perspective and relationship with the natural world and divine changes.

In one of the scene, she says, “I believe I have sinned in your eyes but who’s to know if God shares your view?” Because she finds love and warmth through adultery, she fortifies her own stance and questions whether or not what she did is truly considered as a “sin” because a sin wouldn’t let one be positively moved but feel immense guilt and shame.

Before attaching the scarlet “A” on her bosom, she says, “Not a badge of my shame but your own.” She views her act as not shameful but enlightening. At the end, Pearl Prynne narrates and says, “Who is to say, it is a sin in God’s eyes” – that her parents’ love is a true “sin?”

On the movie cover it even quotes, “When intimacy is forbidden and passion is a sin, love is the most defiant of all.” This describes most religious beliefs. Some of the different aspects of love are not allowed in certain religions, even in modern times, but love is love and The Scarlet Letter tries to argue that.

Humankind’s relationship to the natural world and the divine in this film suggests that perhaps one does not truly know the definition of “sin” and what may be considered as one being that sometimes it opens doors to enlightenment and invites one to see the world differently.


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