Hawthorne clearly distinguishes between sins of passion and those of principle.
Even Dimmesdale, traditional Puritan though he is, finally becomes aware of the difference.
It is frequently noted that Hawthorne’s preoccupation with sin springs from the Puritan-rooted culture in which he lived and from his knowledge of two of his own ancestors who presided over bloody persecutions during the Salem witchcraft trials.
It is difficult for readers from later times to comprehend the grave importance that seventeenth century New Englanders placed on transgression of the moral code.
Such alienation needs no fire and brimstone as consequence; it is in itself a hell.
There is a certain irony in the way in which this concept is worked out in as a symbol of her adultery.In , Hawthorne proves to be closer to Paul Tillich than to Cotton Mather or Jonathan Edwards.Like Tillich, Hawthorne saw sin not as an act but as a state—what existentialists refer to as alienation and what Tillich describes as a threefold separation from God, other humans, and self.It may also be the most typical of his work, the strongest statement of his recurrent themes, and an excellent example of his craftsmanship.The main theme in , as in most of Hawthorne’s work, is that of sin and its effects both on the individual and on society.There are also resemblances between Dimmesdale and Parson Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil,” who continues to perform the duties of his calling with eloquence and compassion but is permanently separated from the company of men by the veil that he wears as a symbol of secret sin.Chillingworth shows resemblances to Ethan Brand, the limeburner who finds the unpardonable sin in his own heart: “The sin of an intellect that triumphed over the sense of brotherhood with man and reverence for God, and sacrificed everything to its mighty claims!For his part, Chillingworth permits vengeance to permeate his spirit so much that his alienation is absolute; he refers to himself as a “fiend,” unable to impart forgiveness or to change his profoundly evil path.His is the unpardonable sin—unpardonable not because God will not pardon, but because his own nature has become so depraved that he cannot repent or accept forgiveness.The characters in are reminiscent of a number of Hawthorne’s shorter works.Dimmesdale bears similarities to Young Goodman Brown who, having once glimpsed the darker nature of humankind, must forevermore view humanity as corrupt and hypocritical.