The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays the strong values of the puritans in the 17th century through the townsmen and women. Religion was a way of life for the puritans. Their values interjected in their emotions, attitudes, actions, and speech. Hester Prynne committed adultery, which defies the puritan’s beliefs. By examining the punishments that were given to Hester, Hawthorne is able to continue to emphasize the puritan beliefs and values. Community was to follow the beliefs of God and to do their duties the best they could; yet they were there to criticize and punish all who disobeyed the religion or laws. Through narrating the tail that is to follow, Hawthorne can better display the puritan beliefs of plainness, aversion to festivities, and the importance of the puritan’s beliefs.

The puritan values and beliefs are availed throughout the novel. At many times Hawthorne speaks about the clothing that Hester, Pearl, and other townspeople are wearing. These descriptions always talk about the plainness of the puritans clothing. On Election Day Hawthorne describes the outfit of the townspeople, “their immediate posterity, the generation next to the early emigrants, wore the blackest shade of Puritanism, and so darkened the national visage with it” (Hawthorne 211). The puritans were often known as plain and valued plainness. The Native Americans in deerskin robes, and the sailors from Spanish ships bring diversity and color to the crowd. If puritans were to dress in this manor they would be fined or imprisoned. Another exemplified puritan value is their aversion to festivities. Election Day is supposed to be celebrated with great festivities and joyfulness. The puritans, “compressed whatever mirth an...

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...ans also have a large tendency to exaggerate, which is observed now that the community believes that the letter can protect Hester from arrow and thieves. Even thought Hester has accepted her punishment and is accepted by many townspeople she still has a harsh attitude towards herself. The letter still weights down on Hester and even effects her physical appearance. The “light and graceful foliage” of Hester’s personality has now changed to appear as “bare and harsh.” Even though Hester still looks majestic and statuesque, her beauty has disappeared because of the lack of passion in her life. Even though the townspeople were quick to notice Hester’s admirable personality, the magistrates who were said to be much wiser notice her qualities much slower. The intelligence creates a block for them to understand true human qualities.

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Scarlet letter
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