The Effectiveness Of The Scarlet Letter As Punishment

1225 words - 5 pages

The answer to the question of whether or not Hester Prynne’s punishment in regards to her sin and the crime of adultery was a befitting one varies greatly between the individual characters within the novel. Some found that her punishment was far too lenient, and that a much harsher one was warranted. It leads the reader to question the effectiveness of the letter, as Nathaniel Hawthorne himself said “The scarlet letter had not done its office”. It was truly the letter itself and its ineffectiveness that allowed Hester to grow as an individual.
Many of the female inhabitants of the village held the belief that a more severe method of punishment should have been exacted upon Hester, citing ...view middle of the document...

She effectively subverts the Puritan-patriarchal laws of the meaning of the letter itself by not only embroidering and embellishing the letter beautifully but additionally, she refuses to name her child’s father, placing Pearl outside the bounds of the Puritan ideology and effectually its power.
Within Puritan society there existed no grey area in terms of sin, “They were stern enough to look upon her death, had that been the sentence, without a murmur at its severity, but had none of the heartlessness of another social state which would find only a theme for jest in an exhibition like the present.” (Hawthorne 109). Many of the villagers felt the punishment just, and in turn befitting the crime. However it is Hester who chooses to convert the symbol into something other than its originally intended purpose, she makes the decision to delicately embroider the symbol and decorate it in a way which could be considered garish by the Puritans, “She bore on her breast, in the curiously embroidered letter, a specimen of her delicate and imaginative skill” (Hawthorne 154).
By deciding to transform the symbol she has been forced to wear to represent shamefulness into something ornate and beautiful, Hester is effectively rebelling against the punishment itself. This is not to say she is completely without remorse. She is aware of her misdeed and knows that she must live with what she has done. Hester makes the conscious choice to withdraw from society and in doing so she is more happily able to live a life of solitude “On the outskirts of the town within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation.” (Hawthorne 152). Hester could have left the village and started anew, instead, she chooses to stay until her sins have been atoned for and her penance fulfilled.
It is also imperative to consider the role of Hester’s daughter, Pearl, in relation to the letter. It could be argued that Pearl herself is a means for Hester to express herself creatively, “The mother in contriving the child’s garb, had allowed the gorgeous tendencies of her imagination their full play” (Hawthorne 189). In this way, Pearl, in a sense, enables Hester to express herself by dressing her in the same colors as the letter itself and indeed it can be perceived that in many ways Pearl “is a pure symbol, the living emblem of the sin, a human embodiment of the Scarlet Letter” (Fogle 312). Indeed, it is in this way that Pearl acts as a daily reminder to Hester of her misdeed...

Find Another Essay On The Effectiveness of the Scarlet Letter as Punishment

The Scarlet Letter as a Method of Understanding Characters

1071 words - 4 pages shame to be acknowledged with disdain, ensuring the effectiveness of the punishment. In contrast, Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale all react to the scarlet letter in different ways, reflecting their connection to Puritan Boston.Hester defiantly endures her punishment, almost to the point of being proud of her adultery and the mark it has left on her. She serves her penance dutifully, but nonetheless exudes a subtle aura of rebelliousness, stealing

The Scarlet Letter: Arthur Dimmesdale as Protagonist

3454 words - 14 pages "Hidden Guilt Abolishes Selfhood"Those who keep their sins and feelings to themselves cause themselves only anguish and despair. In The Scarlet Letter, a romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a young man who achieved fame in England as a theologian and then immigrated to America. In a moment of weakness, he and Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, married woman whose husband is away in Europe, become lovers. Although he

Hypocrisy Of The Scarlet Letter

1749 words - 7 pages In The Scarlet Letter Hypocrisy is evident everywhere. The characters of Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and the very society that the characters lived in, were steeped in hypocrisy. Hawthorne was not subtle in his portrayal of the terrible sin of hypocrisy; he made sure it was easy to see the sin at work , at the same time however, parallels can be drawn between the characters of The Scarlet Letter and of today’s society. The

Analysis of The Scarlet Letter

1653 words - 7 pages Romanticism is categorized as "a preference for simplicity and naturalness, a love of plain feelings and truth to common place reality, especially as found in natural scenes". Nathaniel Hawthorne was an anti-transcendentalist and believed in the dark side of man, hence his dark romantic novel The Scarlet Letter. This allegorical novel depends heavily on symbol and character. The novel is chock full of symbolic dimension of images, characters

The Scarlet Allegory: The Symbolism of the Scarlet Letter

1044 words - 5 pages commits adultery and creates an illegitimate child, Pearl, with the holy Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. The author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, employs a unique and nonpareil style that incorporates antiquated words, thought-provoking symbolism, and rich irony. Hawthorne’s writing style provides a deep meaning to many everyday objects such as a rosebush and a prison door. One of the most important objects, the scarlet letter, experiences many transformations in

The Sin of The Scarlet Letter

652 words - 3 pages book sympathizes with Hester and her sin, I also believe The Scarlet Letter denounces sin by exploring the struggles and hardships that both Hester and Dimmesdale have to confront throughout the novel. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne tells the story of Hester Prynne, who struggles because of the public denunciations that she faces for committing the sin of having an extramarital affair. As the story progresses, the perception of her sin grows

The Duties of the Scarlet Letter

1932 words - 8 pages In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a woman named Hester Prynne is victimized by the puritanical society in which she lives in, due to her adulterous behavior. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet colored “A” which stands for “Adulterer” stitched on her bosom everyday as a permanent symbol and reminder of her sin, while she struggles to raise her daughter named Pearl by herself without a father figure in their family. The two undergo

The Affects of the Scarlet Letter

1095 words - 4 pages is altered. The people in the town judge her and stare as she walks through town. Their opinions of her, in the beginning, are based solely on the letter and its meaning. Although she wears it without shame, she is shamed for her past. She is affected. Pearl is affected. Dimmesdale is affected. Chillingsworth is affected. Everyone in the town is affected. The letters impact and reach is much farther than Hester.Works CitedHawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: New American Library, 1959. Print.

The Irrepressible Nature of Fear as Seen in The Scarlet Letter

1337 words - 6 pages ” (Hawthorne 51.) When Hester stood on the platform, she did not cower in fear as she was inclined to; she instead displayed the Scarlet Letter with fearlessness and fortitude. Hester’s reaction to her situation exemplifies Baldwin’s idea of facing ones fear, and consequentially, the situation she was most fearful of turned out almost favorably. By initially facing her fears of living in public with the shameful mark of the Scarlet Letter, Hester was

The Significance of the Letter in The Scarlet Letter

1826 words - 7 pages The Scarlet Letter: The Significance of the Letter             Adultery has been around almost as long as people. It has maintained a harsh punishment, from banishment to death, but in the Puritan world of colonial America (from about 1620-1640), its punishment may have been worse than either. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne is a lonely Puritan woman who commits infidelity with a preacher and has a son from the

The scarlet letter

1217 words - 5 pages , and especially Pearl. The meaning of the scarlet letter starts out in the beginning of the novel as punishment for the adulterous sin that she had committed and by the end of the novel the meaning had totally change.The name Hester has a history of meanings, one of which occurs during the ancient Greek's belief of gods and goddesses, "Hester recalls Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth and home [...]"(Pennell). Another instant where the name

Similar Essays

The Scarlet Letter / The Greatest Punishment

839 words - 3 pages Scarlet Letter A¡± on her bosom. The towns people, not knowing that the minister was the child¡¯s father, criticize and talks bad about Hester. As part of the punishment, Hester, with Pearl in her arms were to stand on the scaffold without Arthur. Arthur Dimmesdale was respected by many. Young virgins were attracted to him, and old people believed that he would die before them. When Arthur tells the communion that he was a

An Unnatural Family As The Punishment For Sin In Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

962 words - 4 pages The Scarlet Letter. In it, the penalty for Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale’s sin is a family that is disfigured and unnatural. Dimmesdale, the “father” in this family shies away from his patriarchal duties and stands by while he lets Hester do all of the work regarding Pearl. First of all, Dimmesdale is absent for the majority of Pearl’s life. He is present in the town but hardly ever sees Pearl, even though she is his daughter. He says

Sin And Punishment In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1671 words - 7 pages In the novel The Scarlet Letter the predominant themes are sin and punishment. The opening scene showed Hester Prynne standing on a scaffold, clutching her baby, and displaying the scarlet letter A on her chest. Hester committed the sin of adultery, and her daughter Pearl is a product of that sin. Pearl is a living, physical representation of the crime that Hester committed. Hawthorne uses Pearl as one of the most essential characters for

Was The Punishment That Hester Prynne Recieved In The Scarlet Letter A Fair Punishment?

534 words - 2 pages deserved to be punished for committing adultery, but wearing the scarlet letter "A" for her entire life was much too punitive.In the Puritan society in which Hester lived, it was not uncommon to be publicly humiliated as punishment for a sin. In fact, public humiliation was sometimes considered a light punishment. In chapter 1 of The Scarlet Letter, the women outside of the jailhouse discussed Hester's punishment. Most of the women in this scene agreed