Analysis Of Nathaniel Hawthorne 's ' The Scarlet Letter ' Essay
Living on the Edge
Who sets the social standards in a society: the people or the institution? Do individuals have real influence or do they blindly follow along? Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, explores the individual versus society through the lense of Puritan life in the 1600s. Hawthorne not only criticizes society in general but also specifically targets authority by making the Church seem hypocritical. In the novel, Hester Prynne, a woman living in 17th century Puritan Boston, commits the sin of adultery. This act of adultery is widely condemned by her rigid Christian community, and she is forced to literally bear the public shame of this sin on her chest. In The Scarlet Letter, church and the law are one and the same. Thus, the Puritans not only condemn Hester for disobeying religion, but also charge her with breaking the law. By defying the church, she defies all authority. Especially at the beginning of the story, Hester’s community rejects and ostracises her--a reflection of society in Hawthorne’s eyes. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne makes his criticism of Puritan society apparent. Hawthorne argues that the authority sets social standards and criticizes society for its unquestioning acceptance of rigid rules and the expulsion of individuals who don 't conform to them.
Hawthorne ridicules authority by showing how the patriarchal church structure holds people to different gender standards. The church, sets standards to…