This essay compares Nathaniel Hawthorne``s The Scarlet Letter and George Eliot``s Adam Bede, focusing on the theme of moral transgression and its repercussions. Despite obvious indications of Hawthorne``s influence on Eliot``s novel, there are significant differences between the two novels, especially in the conception of female protagonists. This essay contends that Eliot``s division of Hester into Hetty and Dinah plays a crucial role in recasting Hawthorne``s rather theological question into a philosophical and even anthropological one that excludes theism. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne intensely grapples with what constitutes moral sin. For Hawthorne, a failure to be true to oneself is a much graver sin than violating the rules and beliefs of one``s community. Instead of exploring what really is sin, Eliot suggests in Adam Bede that the more important question is to what extent one must share responsibility for moral mistakes and errors of one``s fellow human beings. As compared with Eliot, Hawthorne focused more on the self``s relationship to the community than on the community``s relationship to the self. If Hawthorne basically pursued emancipation of the self from blind and unquestioning obedience to communal norms and values, Eliot saw the need to establish a community based on a new set of values, a community which can have a tighter moral grip on its individual members who would otherwise suffer due to the collapse of conventional moral values that had hitherto served to keep their world in order.