Sarah Parr The Setting in the Scarlet Letter 11/26/13
In Boston, Massachusetts during the late 1600s, the Calvinism is one of the most important parts of the assumptions and values of society. As Calvinists, the Puritans in The Scarlet Letter base their political system largely on religion, creating a theocracy which influences the standard equality between crime and sin. There is no separation between church and state, thus the two are blurred into one, affecting the thoughts and expectations of the society in the novel.
The most important reason for the setting to be what it is, is because The Scarlet Letter revolves around adultery. Today, most people consider adultery a sin, but not something one would get the death penalty for. However, at the beginning of the novel, one gossiping Puritan woman who is viewing Hester’s punishment says, “It would be greatly for the public behoof if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne,” which suggests that the average Puritan thinks that death is fairer than the mere task of wearing the scarlet letter for the rest of Hester’s life. It also shows how the theocracy, along with its rulers from the church and the state government, like Reverend Dimmesdale and Governor Bellingham, influence the public’s judgement of Hester’s passionate sin of committing adultery to be very harsh and without merciful understanding.
Another reason that the setting is essential in this novel is because Hester’s thinking process, when her illegitimate child, Pearl, is at the impressionable age of seven, is extremely unorthodox and feministic. “In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it... She stood apart from mortal interests, yet close beside them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside, and can no longer make itself seen or felt,” shows how Hester’s view of Puritan society began to change, yet because of the promises that Hester...