Puritans And The Scarlet Letter Essay

926 words - 4 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne was not a Puritan, but he had deep bonds back to this religion, and had ancestors that were in charge of the Salem Witch Trials, a fact that Hawthorne always felt remorse for. In choosing this time period as the setting for The Scarlet Letter, a classic story of love, betrayal and religion, he showcased both the weakness and strengths of this time period and religion.
Like the Pilgrims, the Puritans were from England, and were dissatisfied with the church reform of England. So in 1630, after much persecution, the Puritans set out for America. When they arrived in America they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a harbor for Puritans to live and be safe while ...view middle of the document...

While talking about his first ancestor, the General, in the Introduction of the Scarlet Letter, he comments on the “moral quality” of the General, and that “He had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil” (7). Hawthorne, while being aware of the harshness and cruelty of his ancestors, recognizes the strengths of their faith, their perseverance, and moral qualities.
The Puritans, while being famous for their strict codes and morals, were also well known for their forms of punishment on sinners- whose punishments and crimes were decided strictly by the church. In the novel, Hester was forced to wear a red A for adultery. In Puritans times, murders were often branded with the letter M, R for rouge, or B for burglar. Usually these brands were on the skin, and were often followed with execution (Cox). Hester was merely saved because it was believed her husband was dead. However, as Hawthorne shows, this wasn’t enough for the women of the colony. “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead” (38). Another woman in the crowd who is one of the harshest critics, comments on the fact that Hester was getting a lesser punishment, even though their law called for harsher punishments, according to their interpretation of the Bible. “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly, there is, both in the Scripture and the statute book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray”(39).
Another common type of punishment that was described in the Scarlet Letter was the pillory, or stretch neck, was called...

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