Punishment Of Public Shame In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Which pain is worse, guilt from within or humiliation of public shame? In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, characters deal with different pain in consequence of the same sin. Sin does not justify the pain experienced as result. Hester and Dimmesdale strive to contain the effects of their personal guilt from their adultery. Hester’s consequences make her a better person while Dimmesdale’s only hurt himself. Hester Prynne commits sin by having a child out of wedlock with Reverend Dimmesdale. Sentenced by the leaders, she serves her time in prison for going against Puritan beliefs. Hester holds Pearl and walks out of the prison with the Scarlet letter upon her breast, susceptible to to the public shaming of the Puritan people. …show more content…
For the Puritans, committing a sin can result in death, as the Puritans believe in very strict morals. The scarlet letter represents the sin she commits. As a form of punishment, an artistically sewn Scarlet A on her bosom, lays clear for the Puritans to see. Demonstrating evil the “Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom” symbolizes her sin of adultery (51). The Scarlet Letter represents sin physically, for the public to see. When the townspeople see the scarlet letter they judge her on the knowledge of her sin, instead of her character. Hester starts to overcome the effects of her sin by helping the poor and giving to people in need. The townspeople see her doing good and acknowledge her deeds. The scarlet letter, a sign of sin, shifts meaning as the wearer lives a life of service. Referring to the paradox of Hester defying the symbol of the scarlet letter, “That many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification.” (124). The Puritan people develop a new perception of Hester other than the evil they know her for. The people of the community learn to see past the one bad event they know of, and respect Hester. She has grown as a woman because of her sin and shows a sense of justification to the scarlet letter as,“She determined to redeem her error, so far as it might yet be possible” (151). Hester accepts and uses her sin to become a strong woman. She no longer hides behind the letter, but looks at it as a sign of all the good she has done since. Hester, like Dimmesdale, suffers due to the consequence of her sin, but she learns to grow as a

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