In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter the themes of sin and it’s consequences, the nature of evil, and knowledge as power all reflect Hawthorne’s style of writing about the human conscience, particularly the dark side.

            Sin is present all throughout The Scarlet Letter.  This theme is presented most notably as the Scarlet “A” that is stitched to the chest of Hester Prynne’s dress because she committed the crime of adultery.  Everywhere Prynne goes, the burden of her sin follows.  That is not the only consequence of sin.  She had a child as a result of her affairs and her child is also treated the same way as her mother.  She is shunned from the town and by the children.  She grows up alone with her mother.  Pearl, Prynne’s daughter, acknowledges the punishment that society has inflicted on her mother when she says, “Mother, the sunshine does not love you.  It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom,” (Hawthorne 156).  Prynne isn’t the only one that presents the theme of sin throughout the novel.

            Arthur Dimmesdale is also punished for sin.  As the lover in Prynne’s affair, he must hide the truth of his lies.  He lives with the devastation and longing to be part of Hester and Pearl’s lives, but he doesn’t because he too will be punished. Readers soon recognize, however, that either way he is punished.  In refusing to tell anyone about the affair he is punished by sorrow and also a burden of unconfessed sin.  He tortures himself because he is concerned with what the public will think of him.  His private torture serves as a means for him to ease his conscience somewhat and pay –at least privately—for the sin he has committed. 

            Roger Chillingworth unfolds with the sin of revenge.  When he finds out that Hester, his wife, has had an affair, he is determined to find out who her lover is.  He begins a mad hunt, torturing both Prynne and Dimmesdale.  He poses as a doctor to take care of Dimmesdale's heart ache, but is only there to snoop around and find as much information as possible about Prynne’s crime of adultery.  Chillingworth makes sure that Prynne and Dimmesdale cannot live a happy life together.  In the end, however, he dies of rage that he was never able to achieve the revenge he craved.  Prynne, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all examples of how sin leads to great consequences, more sins, and burden.

            Another sin that manifests throughout the novel is the nature of evil.  Evil is mentioned throughout the entire novel of The Scarlet Letter.  It is said to be present within Chillingworth’s revenge, Dimmesdale’s refusal to acknowledge his own daughter, Mistress Hibbins’ worship of the devil, and in the affair of Prynne and Dimmesdale.  Evil is referred to as the “Black Man,” and is also symbolized in the forest where Hester and Pearl live.  It is questioned, however, if Prynne’s act is evil, or if it is Chillingworth’s marriage to her that was evil and his revenge that follows.  Mistress Hibbins is only considered evil because she worships another being other than God.  Anything that goes against the Puritan beliefs is said to be “evil,” but in The Scarlet Letter it promotes what is evil.  Ignoring the Puritan society, what is the most pure evil?  Evil is a mysterious and deceiving matter that this book explores in many different ways.

            Knowledge posing as power is another theme in The Scarlet Letter.  This theme unfolds as Chillingworth presents himself at the prison under a false identity.  He allows Prynne to know he is there, but assures her that he will find out whom she had an affair with.  In his rage he is able to manipulate Prynne and Dimmesdale, and prevent them from ever publicly uniting as a family.  Chillingworth is able to get inside the boundaries by being a “doctor” for Dimmesdale.  Chillingworth also retains the knowledge that Prynne, Dimmesdale, and Pearl are fleeing to England, but he makes sure that Hester is aware of this, just so that he can make life difficult for her.  This all occurred out of his own anger and selfishness.  Chillingworth used the knowledge of their affair that only he possessed, and he used it as a power to posses them.

            The Scarlet Letter presents many themes.  Sin and its consequences, the nature of evil, and knowledge as power are three of which were most vivid throughout the story regarding Hester Prynne and her affairs.