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The Pillory In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

652 words - 3 pages

The Scarlet Letter - The Pillory

 
  The pillory stands tall as "the very ideal of ignominy" amongst the Puritans (52). Its method of discipline involves the convicted criminal standing upon a scaffold, in some cases with their heads confined, for the rest of the population to gaze upon with disdain. It is an outrage against common nature for the culprit to be forbidden to hide his face for shame. By definition, the term "ugly" means morally reprehensible or at fault; consequently, ugly best describes this technique of public humiliation as a sort of punishment. Just as the pillory blatantly defies human nature, so too do the Puritans defy nature by upholding such a practice. Thus, the pillory embodies the ugliness of Puritan society.

 

The Puritans' sense of justice consists of making those they deem sinners an object of public mockery and a shameful example to the rest of the people. The pillory is portrayed as a "contrivance of wood and iron" constructed in such a way that it was "fashioned as to confined the human head in its tight grasp, and thus hold it up to public gaze" (52-53). As the Puritans believe in holding their own people as perverse icons, the pillory presents those it finds guilty in the eyes of all. The pillory is a tangible symbol of the moral guilt all the Puritans possess for their abuse of human nature.

 

Corrupt Puritan beliefs and their ugly ideals are manifest in their mode of punishment. The Puritans are completely unsympathetic in the way they allocate justice. Inherently, humanity should be treated kindly just as "the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind" (46). Their lack of sympathy for others goes against that which nature deems morally acceptable and causes their ugliness. The very essence of the pillory consists of holding a...

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