Theme Of Punishment In The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter is a very well known book written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In The Scarlet Letter two of the main characters, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale become victims of punishment. They both suffer the punishment imposed upon them by others as well as self-imposed punishment.

Hester Prynne is the victim of both types of punishment given to her by her community and the punishment she imposes on herself. After Hester is discovered to have committed the act of adultery, she is punished by the Puritan community. At first, she is labeled with the scarlet “A” upon her chest as well as her attire and forced to stand on the scaffold in front of her community for several hours, which is where she decides how she will punish herself. In
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In the beginning of the book Hawthorne describes Hester’s skill with embroidery as a gift. “Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in charity, on wretches less miserable than herself” (Hawthorne, 77). After being shamed, “she employed in making coarse garments for the poor” (Hawthorne, 77) because Hester believed that “there was an idea of penance in this mode of occupation… devoting so many rude hours to such rude handiwork.” (Hawthorne, 77). Hester chose to show her kindness towards the poor. This is what led to Hester’s justification of herself. Eventually, through her good deeds “it was none the less a fact, however, that, in the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom” (Hawthorne, 147), she is compared to a nun by the townspeople, who were proud to point her out and show her badge off. Dimmesdale was only righted through his death. “While the minister stood, with a flush of triumph in his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had won a victory. Then down he sank upon the scaffold!” (Hawthorne, 228). In Dimmesdale’s head, he dies victorious after he makes it known to the community that he is Hester’s paramour and furthermore when he shows the scarlet letter upon his own chest. Dimmesdale’s self-imposed punishment is righted when he falls down on the scaffold, letting God’s judgement and punishment fall upon …show more content…
The final outcomes of punishment can be seen as brutal, but can also be seen as the best outcome that could have happened to either of these paradoxical characters. It brought Hester’s sinful actions to justice by changing the way she saw adultery. The outcome of the public-imposed punishment and self-imposed punishment worked hand in hand to make her think twice about committing adultery. “Shame Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,--stern and wild ones,-- and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.” (Hawthorne, 180) The punishment that Hester endured, taught her many things. She learned not to commit adultery, for fear of reprisal from her fellow peers and gained a new understanding of the differences between right from wrong. Furthermore, from the punishment, both self-imposed and public-imposed, Hester acquired a new type of strength in her character that very few people today can say they

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