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Sin and Perfection in Religious Literature

The three stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne namely the Ministers Black Veil, the Birthmark and Rapaccini’s Daughter all have some elements of sin and perfection. Precisely sin is apparent in these works. In the Ministers Black Veil, the message conveyed is that of concealed sin. Here Hooper the town minister is shown as having decided to begin wearing a black veil as a symbol of accepting his sinful nature. This behavior is not accepted by his congregation and consequently they are uncomfortable. Wearing the veil in all occasions (funeral services and weddings) is an indicator that Hooper had known that he had done wrong and accepted the truth that nothing could be done about it. This significantly shows that evil is present in the world and that even the most of revered people such as this minister has some hidden or lurking inside them. Even though he is not accepted by his congregation of the puritans, Hooper simply convicts all of them of being sinners as envisaged in “I look around me and lo! on average visage, a Black Veil” (Hawthorne, The Ministers Black Veil 759). The author tries to summon people to accept that they are sinners and hence should not look down upon other people’s sins, yet they have sinned.

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Whereas this message of sin is clear in ‘Black Veil’, ‘The Birthmark’ presentation of it is problematic or difficult to understand. However, it can be said that Georgiana’s Birthmark depicts that humanity is borne with the original sin or being sinful in character. Alternatively it appears that the element of science and selfishness in Aylmer are attributes of sinful nature of humanity. Aylmer sees his wife to be perfect except for the birthmark she has in the cheek this evidenced in, “You came so nearly perfect from the hand of nature that this slightest possible defect which we hesitate whether term a defect or beauty, shocks me as being the visible mark of earthly perfection” (Hawthorne 1022). Consequently he leads her to have the birthmark removed. This act of trying to perfect what nature has designed is a sin itself as this finally leaves Georgiana dead. The story tries to show that all humanity is marked by imperfection.

In Rappacini’s Daugther, Rappaccini is portrayed as being of evil morals as described in, “he would sacrifice human life… for the sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge”( Wineapple 98) (Hawthorne, Rappacini’s Daughter 1014). This attribute of being evil (sinful), drives him to consider perfecting his daughter and a beautiful garden. This beautiful garden is equivalent to the Biblical Garden of Eden with Beatrice and Giovanni representing Adam and Eve. Whereas only Beatrice has immune to Rappacini’s flowers, Giovanni’s close association with her, leads him to develop this immunity. This depicts that sin came to humanity through one person (Beatrice immunity) and spread to all human beings (Giovanni’s development of immunity)

If the story can be understood in the version that Rappacini himself represents God (nature) and thus what nature has perfected no man should try to change, then Banglion’s attempt to perfect (his attempt to cure Beatrice) what God has created is in total futility. All these stories depict humans as being sinful in nature in that all character exhibits some elements of sin. It is this sin that makes humanity imperfect in the eyes of (God) nature.

References

Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 201

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Minister’s Black Veil 1804-1864 From Twice-Told Tales, 1837, 1851. Web.

Wineapple, Brenda. “Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804-1864: A Brief Biography”, collected in A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Larry J. Reynolds, editor. Oxford University Press, 2001.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 22). Sin and Perfection in Religious Literature. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/sin-and-perfection-in-religious-literature/

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Sin and Perfection in Religious Literature'. 22 November.

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