Essay On The Hypocrisy Of Puritanism In The Scarlet Letter

978 Words 4 Pages
In the novel The Scarlet Letter, an examination of the reaction to sin in Puritan society, Nathaniel Hawthorne, born in Salem, Massachusetts with powerful Puritan ancestors presents significance in the scaffold and the scarlet letter, implication in Hester’s occupation and charitable gestures, and the development of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and Governor Bellingham in order to expose the hypocrisy of Puritanism. The novel is set in seventeenth century Boston, then known as Massachusetts Bay Colony, in which Puritan values and rigidity course through the streets of the city. Hawthorne ultimately convinces the audience, adamant Puritans and subjects of today’s society, to overcome their outdated assumptions and become weary of Puritan values. …show more content…
Society condemns Hester to stand on the scaffold for three hours while facing tremendous shame as a result of the town’s comments, glares, and actions. Hawthorne recognizes “that the mildest and severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful” (Hawthorne 47). Hawthorne implies the dichotomy of “venerable” and “awful” in order to generate a sense of disarray in the audience, as these adjectives contradict each other. This conflict reflects the hypocritical nature of Puritans, as shaming Hester fails to accommodate for their own sins. The contradictory language of the text conveys a skeptical tone toward the morals of Puritans, establishing an introduction to the obvious hypocrisy of Puritanism. The initial depiction of the scarlet letter continues to reflect Puritans’ false facade of morality by acknowledging its ability to recognize a sinful being. Hawthorne observes that “the red infamy in her breast would give a sympathetic throb, as she passed near a venerable …show more content…
Pearl notes that “In the dark night-time, he calls us to him, and holds thy hand and mine… But here in the sunny day, and among all the people, he knows us not” (Hawthorne 199). Hawthorne describes Dimmesdale’s nature through Pearl because her young age, and therefore innocence, establishes her credibility. Darkness connotes distrust and insincerity, conveying that Dimmesdale’s assumed desire to pursue a life with Hester and Pearl is artificial. His Puritan values compel him to abandon his lover in her shame while he maintains his reputation as a respected minister. Hawthorne juxtaposes Dimmesdale’s private and public actions in order to portray all Puritans’ insincere values with a sarcastic tone indicated by Pearl’s inability to understand Dimmesdale’s choices. Similarly, Hawthorne illustrates Governor Bellingham's lifestyle to communicate Puritan dishonesty. Hawthorne observes that “forth into the sunny day was thrust the face of Mistress Hibbins, Governor Bellingham’s bitter-tempered sister” (Hawthorne 103). Hawthorne reveals that Mistress Hibbins and Governor Bellingham live in the same household. He unites a pious member of Puritan society with a “bitter-tempered” witch, inspiring evil sentiments, in order to demonstrate Puritans’ combination of inherent immorality with a guise of superior morals. This serves to instigate a sense of distrust in the reader toward the

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