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.
Through out the course of history, those who were considered sinners were often out casted from the society. This is much the case with Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. After a public trial, Hester is considered a sinner due to her birthing of a so called “devil child”. Hester is convicted to the life long bearing of a scarlet letter on her chest. The Scarlet Letter that Hester Prynne wears symbolizes the change in perception of sin through out the novel.
A soiled and twisted love triangle connects these three individuals as Hester’s persecution draws near. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses these individuals to exemplify guilt, hypocrisy and vengeance through secrecy and sin in The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne pities the life of her daughter Pearl, labeled a child of sin and a product of adultery. Pearl is in essence a real representation of the scarlet letter that she bears. Hester’s own doing lays out the fate of her child.
Throughout the story, she develops into a dynamic symbol - one that is always changing. Pearl represents her mother’s punishment, a rose, and the scarlet letter. In The Scarlet Letter, the Puritans forced Hester to wear a scarlet letter “A” across for her chest, for the crime of adultery. The punishment continued as Hester was treated as outcast and mocked by the town. “Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, so would the next,” the narrator explained.
Cursed with the permanent mark of adultery upon her bosom, Hester Prynne, the main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, The Scarlet Letter, faces many hardships and disgrace. Referencing these hardships, Hawthorne portrays the scarlet letter as the forbidden mark of adultery. Upon first meeting Hester, the scarlet letter is a symbol for adultery and disgrace. As the story progresses, the scarlet letter evolves into a symbol of wisdom and identity. Hawthorne utilizes each different meaning of the scarlet letter to make a commentary on the Puritan society.
The beginning portion of the novel showcases the intended meaning of the ‘A.’ During the middle chapters, the ‘A’ shows a differing change in meaning than the beginning. The novel finishes by portraying what the letter ‘A’ truly symbolized to Hester. The beginning portion of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter showcases the intended meaning of the letter ‘A’ on Hester Prynne. When publicly tried for her crime of adultery, which led to the birth of an illegitimate daughter, Hester is ordered to wear a scarlet letter, the letter ‘A.’ This letter was supposed to symbolize the shame of her sin. It was supposed to set Hester apart from the rest of the townspeople by way of banishment since she was known as a fallen, sinful woman.
While Hester’s mister hid in the shadows, she was branded with a scarlet letter A for adultery as punishment for her sin. The scarlet letter was more than a piece of cloth over her chest; it was reminder to everyone around about Mrs. Prynne’s actions. Hawthorne uses biblical and spiritual allusions to argue that guilt causes individuals to change their lifestyles. Beginning with Hester, Hawthorne uses allusions to the Bible to argue the change in lifestyle brought forth by guilt. Upon being punished for her sins, Hester’s guilt overtook her mind and transformed her actions.
Hester is forced to change her identity and the society around her looks at her in a different eye than what she was before she received the scarlet letter. As Hester wears the Scarlet Letter the people around her label her as well as her changing for her society around her in order to fit in. Hester Prynne has committed the sin of adultery, which in her society she needs to wear a Scarlet Letter as a punishment. Hester was put in front of her community and is exploited to what she is. “I charge… speak out the name of thy fellow sinner… though he were to step down from a high place.” (Hawthorne 77) Because she is a sinner, and people want her to confess her sin she goes against them and refuses to speak.
Finally there is Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s former husband who swears revenge upon the man in which his wife had slept with, taking in the devil. In this novel three main sins are revealed by three main people, Hester who represents adultery, Reverend Dimmesdale who is an example of concealed sin, and the worst of them all, Roger Chillingworth who let the devil over take his soul. Throughout the book the true nature of sin is revealed and how different people react to it. To begin with, there is Hester Prynne. A young lady who was sent to New England to begin her and her husbands life without her husband while he wraps up his affairs in Europe.
As stated before, she was the main character, and the one who leads others to sin. She committed the sin of adultery, the sin that back in those days was punished with death. The only reason why they speared her life was because she did not want to name the father of the baby, and her baby "the elf-child" could not live alone without a mother or a father. Therefore, in order to still practice their authority, the magistracy decided to punish her by making her wear the scarlet letter "A"on her bosom, and to stand in the scaffold for three hours every day. "But in their great mercies and tenderness of heart they doomed mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom".