The Duties Of The Scarlet Letter

1932 words - 8 pages

In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a woman named Hester Prynne is victimized by the puritanical society in which she lives in, due to her adulterous behavior. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet colored “A” which stands for “Adulterer” stitched on her bosom everyday as a permanent symbol and reminder of her sin, while she struggles to raise her daughter named Pearl by herself without a father figure in their family. The two undergo harsh judgments and alienation from the entire community throughout the novel. In addition to the struggles that Hester and Pearl encounter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the father of Pearl, also struggles internally with himself over his sin of committing adultery with Hester. As the novel progresses, the power of the scarlet letter is apparent through the way Hester becomes, as well as in the way the townspeople of their society view Hester. Although initially the scarlet letters appears to bring struggles and burdens to the three, it actually fulfills its duty by bringing redemption and changing the mindsets of the townspeople.
Not one person in our world is perfect. Although everyone has done something wrong, the weight of committing adultery in the puritanical societies of the 17th century was much heavier than of other behaviors deemed sinful. In puritanical society, women had the role of being submissive to men, and caretakers of the home and family. Women were expected to remain and serve their husbands and family faithfully without fail, therefore when it was known that a woman had committed adultery, people were looked down upon the woman very heavily. According to Puritan doctrine, the acts of adultery are extremely sinful and deadly; this is the reason why Hester was given such a punishment where she wasn’t killed, but was scarred with the scarlet letter “A” on her bosom. With a bright letter “A” on her chest, Hester as well as everyone who saw her could identify her as an adulteress. This identification marker clearly brought very much judgment, shame, and ridicule upon Hester. The narrator states, “…they kept turning around to stare at Hester, the baby in her arms and the shameful letter on her breast.” (62) They, being the young boys in the market who are not completely aware of the significance of the letter “A” still stare and mentally shame Hester for what she did despite the fact that they do not know what she did. This exemplifies the intensity of the shame the comes along with the punishment that Hester received, to the point where people who do not even know what she did still shame her. The purpose of the constant reminder may be a form of penance, an outward expression of repentance and self-improvement for committing something sinful. Her dedication to the seven years of wearing the red letter on the chest signifies her determination to be redeemed for her behavior through repentance and self-reflection. In addition to the mental attributes of wearing the scarlet letter, the red color...

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