Believed by many writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, society corrupts and conforms the individual, and it is the individual who breaks from consistency and conformity that is most free. Hester Prynne, a woman punished for adultery, is isolated by herself and her community, but breaks free from strict Puritan society. Roger Chillingworth, the husband of Hester, isolates himself which leads to the destruction of himself and the community. Hester Prynne and Roger Chillingworth experience different types of isolation, and while Hester chooses to transcend Puritan laws and live a purposeful life regardless of how it affects her, Chillingworth decides to become infatuated with the sin of Arthur Dimmesdale and live in revenge outside of Puritan society which ultimately leads to his demise.
Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Puritan society greatly affects the characters boundaries, limitations, and expectations because of their emphasis on God and the community. When John Winthrop said that the Puritans should be a “city upon a hill” (Winthrop), he set the societal precedent that any act within the community reflected the Puritans as a whole for the surrounding people and God to see (Winthrop). Likewise, any act out of line was a stain on the entire community in the eyes of others and God. Puritans laws aimed to control relationships, families, clothing, and other aspects of life. For example, if children did not conform to Puritan ideas and customs, the parents were seen as unfit, and the child was taken away (“The Puritan Family”). To emphasize that people should not be tied to earth by worldly belongings, Puritans wore modest, simple clothes in “sadd”, or somber, colors (“The Puritan Family”). Puritan people were expected to conform to ...
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