Scarlet Letter Puritan

1007 Words 5 Pages
Societies in which organized religion is heavily involved in the government have historically limited personal liberties. According to Raif Badawi, a Saudi writer and activist, “States that are built on a religious foundation limit their own people in a circle of faith and fear.” These problems are not caused by the religion itself, and are instead caused by the way said religion is applied in society. In The Scarlet Letter, author Nathaniel Hawthorne often inserts commentary about Puritan society. Like Badawi, Hawthorne understood the negative effects religion can have when overly involved in government. In this passage, the problems created by Puritanism are revealed.
Despite kindness being a valued trait in the Bible, the Puritan society
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The passage states that the harsh convictions criminals face come as a result of religion, which indicates that they are applied to promote good Puritan values. Yet this is subjective and therefore ambiguous. The narrator references this idea, “...a penalty which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself” (47). Essentially, the interpretation of crime and good ethics are subject to change. Citizens of the town are expected to accept what the town leaders claim is good moral behavior, even if it contrasts with their own moral compass. This is most notable with Hester, who does not feel exceedingly guilty for her sin. She believes her sin to be a single mistake far better than other sins, while the town leadership, who establish what is true religious behavior, believe it is a grave sin. This leads to the ineffectiveness of the judicial system. Hester does not learn from her punishment, and many see her as a victim of an overly harsh punishment. The culture that these punishments create is also negative. Because it is the government’s responsibility to create a religious society, the focus on eradicating bad behavior creates a grey and grim environment. The rigidity and strictness of such a religious climate as the Puritan society restricts the joy and

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