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Sin and Punishment in the Lives of Citizens

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  • Pages: 3
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  • Category: Regret

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The concept of sin and punishment was a central thought in the lives of citizens in the early American society. Considering that the majority of people believed in the religion of Christianity and included as a fundamental part of their lives, sin and punishment were not taken lightly. The punishment of sin and fake devotion, the importance of accepting a sin, and the use of punishment to force a person to confess to lies were mentioned in The Devil and Tom Walker, The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible respectively.

One form of sin is greed, which were one of the major themes in The Devil and Tom Walker. Tom’s wife was the first death in the story when she went to search for the wealth promised by the devil. Later, Tom Walker met the same fate as his wife when he agreed to the devil’s terms of becoming an usurer. “He thought with regret on the bargain he had made…he became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent churchgoer” (Odell 160). Since Tom Walker finally secured his wealth, he became worried about his deal. He thought of cheating the devil when he would come to ‘collect his due’ by faking to being devoted to God. However, his efforts were in vain as the devil eventually took everything that he had and Tom Walker himself.

People who are very pious feel that committing a sin brings great shame towards their family and themselves. However, in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne wore the letter A on her chest which symbolized her sin of adultery. She wears this symbol to the public, which instantly causes them to treat her differently than others. “ … owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance” (Hawthorne 94). The scarlet letter determined Hester’s overall identity; however, she accepted her sin from the beginning. In contrast, Dimmesdale kept his sin of adultery to himself, resulting in an internal torture and his imminent death. “… since all powers of nature call so earnestly for the confession of sin, that these black weeds have sprung up out of a buried heart to make manifest an unspoken crime?” (Hawthorne 117). People who are unable to accept their sins are eventually consumed by their own guilt leading to their demise.

In The Crucible, citizens were threatened with punishment by court so that they would get them to confess to witchcraft, even though they didn’t take part in it.” Tituba: No, no, don’t hang Tituba! I tell him I don’t desire to work for him, sir” (Miller 42). To escape being hanged, they must confess to witchcraft, even if it is a lie to God. Some people, such as John Proctor, would rather remain honest to God and the people of Salem, with the cost of his life. “Proctor: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies…” (Miller 138). He initially wanted to confess to save his life, but later accepted his punishment when he was forced to nail his confession to the church door with his name on it.

Sin and punishment have impacted the lives of many citizens of early America. As told in the previously mentioned novels, sin can lead to one’s ultimate downfall, accepting your sins will lead a better life than not confessing, and how punishment were used as threats to make a person confess.

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