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The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

926 words - 4 pages

Modern society would call a lifetime of humiliation a cruel and unusual punishment. In the time of the Puritans, however, that punishment was seen as excessively merciful for Hester Prynne, a woman guilty of adultery. Forced to wear a visible label of her crime for the rest of her life, Hester was unable to hide from the sin that she committed. Her counterpart Dimmesdale, on the other hand, was seen by the public as godly, and he hid his responsibility for years. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates the effects of the conscience, showing the differences of one whose guilt is secret and one whose is exposed.
Hester Prynne could never have hidden her crime, since the ...view middle of the document...

After many years of penitence, Hester earned a tentative respect from the people of Boston. She spent her life humbly, and they saw her as a tolerable and productive member of their society. She still had no friends among them, and nobody would speak to her; however, Hester accepted this and had no desire for companionship other than her little girl, Pearl. Because of her humble lifestyle, the legal system of Boston even considered allowing her to remove the scarlet letter; but Hester Prynne herself disagreed with the notion that her punishment should end. In this way, the scarlet letter transformed Hester into a woman who was independent, emotionally and mentally strong, and satisfied with her life.
Despite the severity of Hester’s punishment, she was fortunate not to be put to death for her crime. It was, as Roger Chillingworth stated, “A wise sentence…thus she [would] be a living sermon against sin.” Hester’s scarlet letter was a warning to the people of Boston that no sin was worth its reprimand. Hester recognized the possibility of leaving Boston and pursuing a new life elsewhere, where the scarlet letter would not define her; however, Hester saw that she deserved her punishment, and that to take it elsewhere would lessen the severity of her suffering. She knew that this would only cause regret in her own heart, as her penitent suffering would not have been complete. Late in her life, the conclusion states, Hester became a source of advice and consultation with women in Boston. Though her fellow townspeople found her mistakes to be the defining facets of her person, her hard work transformed her into someone who could be trusted.
The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale was...

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