“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” -Unknown

The Crucible
In “The Crucible,” by Arthur Miller, forgiveness is a rare, but important theme. Before the main plot, the reader learns that the married John Proctor and Abigail Williams had an affair. After John’s wife, Elizabeth, learns of the affair, their marriage becomes strained. Near the end of the book, however, John was placed in jail and Elizabeth was asked to convince John to admit to witchery. While Elizabeth and John were meeting, they brought up the horrible affair. In the scene, Elizabeth was finally able to forgive John for being unfaithful and in turn, she ended up blaming herself for not being a good enough wife. Because of her forgiveness of him, they both were able to move on with their lives. The guilt between the couple had put tension on their relationship, but after forgiving one another, they both found release.


The Village
In “The Village,” by M. Night Shyamalan, the act of forgiveness was depicted. Noah, a mentally retarded young man, tried to kill his sister, Ivy’s, fiancé, Lucius. The viewer and Ivy were both unaware of the reasons behind the attempted murder. Ivy was devastated; her fiancé was dying in a nearby home, and she was horrendously upset with her brother, Noah. Ivy learned that in order to save Lucius, she needed to go to town to retrieve medicine. In order to gather the strength needed for the mission, Ivy had to first learn to forgive Noah. Although it wasn’t necessarily in a specific scene in “The Village,” Ivy unquestionably forgave Noah. She never would have been able to muster up the strength and perseverance if she was furious with her best friend. Instead, she forgave him and was able to continue on with her life and mission.


The Color Purple (ALIS)
In “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker, Celie was the abused and neglected wife of a man named Albert. After finally escaping her marriage, Celie was still forced to stay close to Albert, even though she detested him. Throughout the book, however, Celie began talking with Albert again. She soon realized why he beat and degraded her. Although she didn’t necessarily agree with his choices of action, she continued talking with him and they became close friends. She learned to forgive Albert for all the maltreatment and abuse. In the end, she and Albert become closer than ever and both ended up much happier.


Gothic Stories:
“A Rose for Emily”
In “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, forgiveness is not shown at all and a very horrible fate occurs because of this. There was a young woman named Emily. Emily’s father constantly drove the young men away from her, and because of this, she became desperate and upset. Emily soon fell in love with a man named Homer Barron and “persuaded” him to be with her (it was unknown whether they got married). The reason that she needed to “persuade” him was because Homer was interested in men only. After finally accepting that Homer would never truly love her, Emily killed him and laid with him in her bed every night. This exemplifies the consequences of not forgiving. All her grief and anger had caught up to Emily and, because she was unable to forgive Homer, she ended up killing her one true love!

“The Minister’s Black Veil”
A second Gothic story that depicts how the inability to forgive results in consequences, is “The Minister’s Black Veil,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. One day, a Reverend, Mr. Hooper, decided to wear a black veil for the rest of his life. This seemingly innocent act scared and upset many people. He would not reveal his face, nor explain why he was wearing the veil. Finally, on his deathbed, Mr. Hooper cried to his friends, “Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil?” (Hawthorne). He had troubled the entire town, and his own conscience, because of this black veil. Mr. Hooper then went on to explain, “…when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!” (Hawthorne). Mr. Hooper was trying to describe how we all hide behind our “veil” of sin. We hold on to these sins and, because of this, make life extremely difficult for us and for our neighbors. Because we are unable to forgive ourselves and others, we suffer the pains of every mistake made.

Romantic Poetry:
“The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”
In the poem, “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the tide is forgiveness and the beach is life. The traveler walks along the beach while the tide erases his footsteps. This poem represents the power of forgiveness because, as the traveler walks through life, he obviously makes mistakes. As he looks back on his life (the beach), he can see the mistakes, or footprints, that he has made. The tide, however, gently erases these footprints and allows the man to “continue walking.” The tide allows the man to “start his life all over again” while not focusing on his past, but the present. The tide is important because it “sets the man free.”


Components of Transcendentalism:
Inner Peace
Transcendentalism is where one “transcends” a physical state and finds inner peace. This can be related to forgiveness because when one forgives, one feels relieved and at ease. One cannot be truly happy while focusing on the wrong-doings of other people. Transcendentalists concentrate on happiness and peace, and in order to find this peace and acceptance, they must learn to forgive. As Hannah Arendt said, “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.” Transcendentalists love and need freedom, and the only way to achieve this is through forgiveness.

In order to transcend, one must give up petty differences and focus on the present and future. How can a transcendentalist focus on their thoughts and their being when their mind is imprisoned by the past? It is said, by an unknown author, "Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.” Transcendentalists must forgive what life, the world, or other people have done to them. Ralph Emerson said, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.” He is saying that it is important to move on! The only way to continue on the journey of life is to forgive.


Frederick Douglass

In the autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave,” Douglass escaped nearly twenty one years of slavery on December 3, 1838.
Throughout the years of his life where he was a slave, Douglass was beaten without mercy and almost killed multiple times by his masters. Many freed slaves held resentment towards their masters and lived a life full of schemes and remembrance. After Douglass was freed, however, he lived his life to the fullest. He subconsciously forgave his masters actions in order to move on with his life. He could have easily started planning acts of revenge, but he let go of the past and ended up living a happier life because he learned to forgive.

The Great Gatsby

In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Daisy and Tom had been married for a very long time. Their marriage had suffered through many ups and downs, yet they always ended up together again. During the novel, Tom had been having an affair with a woman named Myrtle Wilson. Daisy, the entire time, had known about the affair and was struggling to take action. Until she met Gatsby, she was bitter and angry about the sordid affair, yet when she and Gatsby began having an affair, she realized why Tom would cheat on her. Myrtle was then killed and Tom wanted Daisy back again. Because Daisy knew what it felt like to have an affair, she was able to sympathize with Tom and eventually forgive him. As soon as she forgave him, she realized that she was also free of her burdens. By forgiving him, she could forgive herself and enjoy a happy life with Tom.

Another example of forgiveness in The Great Gatsby was when Nick finally forgave Gatsby. In the beginning, although the book says otherwise, Tom acted as if Gatsby was his role-model. Gatsby had a beautiful house, threw amazing parties, and had thousands of material possessions. However, unknown to Nick, Gatsby was fully in love with Daisy and began acting differently once she came into his life again. Gatsby became possession-obsessed, delusional, and even uncertain. As soon as Nick realized the power Daisy held over Gatsby, he became ashamed of the consumed man: “I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end….concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by” (Fitzgerald 154). At this moment, however, Nick finally realized that Gatsby was in love and not in control of his actions. Nick knew that he could not judge a man in love, and therefore forgave Gatsby for all his wrong-doings. By forgiving Gatsby, Nick set himself free and was then able to lead his own life.