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Essay/Term paper: Analysis of scarlet letter

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter is a novel that deals with the never-ending

theme of sin. Throughout history, people have committed all

types of sins, and whether they are major or minor, people

have been punished. However, the severity of a punishment

is very difficult to agree on. Some people feel that sinners

should be deeply punished no matter how little the

wrongdoing was. Others feel that a person's punishment

should be based upon the severity of their crime. However,

what many people overlook is the fact that in time, we all

have committed sins. In The Scarlet Letter, the idea of sin

and punishment is the main theme of the novel and how

Hester Prynne, the main character, has been punished for

her sin of adultery. As Nathaniel Hawthorne states in this

novel, "In the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike."

This statement puts a big question mark on the true lives of

the Puritans. If we all have once committed a moral

wrongdoing, why is this young woman so harshly punished

for her sin? Hester Prynne was a young woman living in a

Puritan community in the "New World." Her husband, Roger

Chillingworth was said to be lost at sea, and Hester assumed

his death. Upon this basis, young Hester committed a crime

of adultery with her fellow Minister Arthur Dimmesdale. The

result of this extra marital affair was the birth of young Pearl,

an "elf-like" child. When the townspeople become aware of

what Hester has done, they forced her to wear an ultimate

sign of punishment, the scarlet letter. This letter "A" for

adultery had to be worn on Hester's bosom at all times.

However, Roger Chillingworth returns from sea and now

seeks revenge on Hester's lover. When one analyzes the

punishment inflicted upon her, it may seem harsh and cruel,

especially for a Puritan society. It seems that Hawthorne

agrees with this as well. Throughout the novel, it seems

apparent that Hawthorne feels that the punishment Hester

received was harsh and self-degrading. When one commits a

sin, they should understand their mistake, receive their

blame, and receive a "slap on the wrist." However, the

punishment Hester received was far worse emotionally.

Wearing the letter made Hester the talk-about of the town.

When she walked through the marketplace, she received

scornful looks, as if society was rejecting her for her

wrongdoing. Hester was now living on the outskirts of town,

isolated from neighbors and trying to communicate with her

daughter Pearl. After many years of being swept out of

society, Hester realized that her punishment was far worse

than she deserved. Many times throughout the novel,

Hawthorne sympathizes with Hester because of the

emotional problems she encounters. Hawthorne sees her as

the victim quite oftenly and blames it on her youth. She was

forced to marry Roger Chillingworth at a young age,

although she clearly had no feelings for him. Secondly,

Hester's crime was one out of passion, not malice. It is clear

throughout the novel that she has strong feelings for

Dimmesdale and they outweigh her respect for the Puritan's

code of law. Although Hawthorne does not condone

adultery, he often feels that Hester's sin is somewhat out of

necessity. She has nobody in her life. Her husband is lost at

see and she lives with nobody. Dimmesdale was the first

man Hester really loved, and he feels that because of these

circumstances, her punishment far outweighed her crime.

Throughout the novel, it is very clear that Hester does not

abide by most Puritan traditions and she clearly is not very

orthodox. However, at times in the novel, it seems that she

has overcome her guilt and her love for Pearl is unmatched,

yet the scarlet letter always reminds her of her adulterous sin.

A human is very fragile and many things can hurt or upset

them. As Hawthorne expresses, it is clear to Puritans that

they have little or no sympathy for unruly persons.

Hawthorne feels that once she has over come her guilt and

has accepted her punishment, then Hester should be able to

start over from scratch and unload this heavy burden from

her back. However, that doesn't happen. This sin remains

with Hester for seven years until her death, and the Puritan

community never seems to forgive her for her sins. It is very

clear that in this novel, Hawthorne is attempting to express

his feelings on Puritan life and their rigid beliefs towards

transgressors. However, people should be able to leave the

past behind them and start over, yet that never seems to

happen, and Hester is forced to drag this guilt around with

her, until her last breath of air.  

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