Impure Puritans in The Scarlet Letter

Impure Puritans in The Scarlet Letter

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Impure Puritans in The Scarlet Letter


        In a world where society is disorganized, unhappy, and chaotic, it

can be extremely difficult to provide an honest, and just law system.  As a

result, in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, people use their

religion (Puritan), as judge, jury, and executioner.  For some people, it

can be very troublesome to live a normal life when you are surrounded by

biased and chauvinistic men and women.  In this story, Hester Prynne is a

victim of her religion, and her fellow townsfolk.


        Throughout the book, Hawthorne writes about the townspeople and how

they act and behave towards each other, Hester, and life in general.  The

novel starts with Hester walking towards the town scaffold to be seen for

public display, because she committed the crime of adultery.


        A lane was forthwith opened through the crowd of spectators.

Preceded by the beadle, and attended by an irregular procession of stern-

browed men and unkindly visaged women, Hester Pyrnne set forth towards the

place appointed for her punishment.  A crowd of eager and curious

schoolboys, understanding little of the matter in hand except that it gave

them a half-holiday, ran before her progress, turning their heads

continually to stare into her face, and at the wink-ing baby in her arms,

and at the ignominious letter on her breast.    P. 52, 53


        As this is happening, all the people see is the crime that Hester

committed, not the person behind it.  They do not take into consideration,

that the crime itself, is not as evil as they make it out to be.  Hawthorne

describes it as enjoyable to the spectators, by showing the children watch

her and laugh as she makes her way to the scaffold.  It's as though the

people of the Puritan religion are heartless, ruthless, cold blooded, and

that what is going on, is considered fun.



        Aside from forcing Hester to stand on the scaffold, they make her

knit an "A" onto her chest.  The "A" symbolizes adultery.  The plan was for

people to look upon this symbol, pity her, and make Hester feel deprived of

humanity.  Instead of knitting a simple "A", Hester designs a very complex

and elaborate one.  The reaction from the people shows how evil some of

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them truly are.



"It were well," muttered the most iron-visaged of the old dames, if we

stripped Madam Hester's rich gown off her dainty shoulders; and as for the

red letter, which she hath stitched so curiously, I'll bestow a rag of mine

own rheumatic flannel, to make a fitter one!"          P.  52



Hawthorne shows how he thinks the Puritan people would react to the manner

in which Hester stitched the "A", and he does not make them look very

pleasant.  By showing them as being ruthless, and evil, Hawthorne is able

to reveal his views of the Puritan people, and how he dislikes them through

the townsfolk (the woman in particular).  He makes them come across as

people you would love to hate.



        Hawthorne seems to think that the Puritan religion is too strict

and harsh.  You can see how he dislikes them by the way people act, talk,

and live.



        My imagination was a tarnished mirror.  It would not reflect, or

only with miserable dimness, the figures with which I did my best to people

it.  The characters of the narrative would not be warmed and rendered

malleable by any heat that I could kindle at my intellectual forge.  They

would take neither the glow of passion nor the tenderness of sentiment, but

retained all the rigidity of dead corpses, and stared me in the face with a

fixed and ghastly grin of contemptuous defiance.

                                            P. 33-34


        Hawthorne is saying that he has a biased view of the Puritan people

from the beginning.  Whatever he tries to do to make the characters in the

book seem innocent, or good, is extremely hard for him.  He sees them as

evil in the heart, and nothing can change his mind.



        Throughout the entire book, Hester was looked down upon (though

slightly less as the story progressed), and treated like a second class

citizen.  Hawthorne shows his distaste of the Puritan culture by expressing

himself through the characters and their actions.  Not one person in this

novel was truly good, and all the characters sinned.  It is impossible to

have a perfect society, and Nathaniel Hawthorne explains to us  in The

Scarlet Letter,  that one ruled by the Puritan religion, proves this true.




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