Justification of Hester in The Scarlet Letter

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In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne commits adultery, a disgraceful sin, and she is severely punished. Yet although her sin was not a good choice, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, attempts to justify her actions. His writing indicates that he does not accept of her behavior but that it was not completely her fault. Being a Puritan, Hester was forced into one way of life, the only acceptable way in the eyes of her community. This pressure to adhere to numerous strict rules was metaphorically compared to a difficult journey down a narrow, winding road in the forest with little light. The Puritanical way of life curbed deviant behavior and is a justification for Hester's sin because every so often, everyone strays from the path but it the reaction to the wrongdoings that should be defining and Hester remained strong and took the consequences. Another main idea within the Puritan community was the disallowance of toleration. They did not tolerate any behavior outside their ideals and laws because it broke the uniformity of the religion. Again, Hawthorne uses the metaphor of a road to portray this idea within the Puritan society. He suggests the idea that everything outside the path is evil and should not be tolerated. For a road is meant to be followed, and whatever lies outside the established boundaries of a road is irrelevant to one's destination. This road that Hawthorne creates effectively demonstrates the idea of a strict Puritan society and demonstrates not only the path the Puritans are made to follow, but also what is forbidden to them while they are restricted to the path. Traditionally, forests or woods are used to symbolize the wild and untamed, and the inhabitants are usually depicted as savages or outlaws. Hawthorne uses the forest to depict the things that Puritans are meant to avoid and that are forbidden; things that will make them sinful or turn them into savages or outlaws. He describes the "mystery of the primeval forest" and he states that the forest is a "mystery", which contradicts what the Puritans want in their society, uniformity (125). The forest symbolizes what they do not want, a change from the path that everyone must follow. Change is not tolerated in their religion; change is their evil. The forest represents this change; it is wild and untamed, not uniform. To become curious and want to explore, and stray off the path, and venture into the "mysterious forest," would be the ultimate sin, such as Hester's sin.
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