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The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter

In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne is punished, for committing adultery, by having to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest for the rest of her life. She committed adultery with the minister of the town, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Together they formed a child named Pearl. The people of Boston in Hester's day were very religious, and believed that anyone who could commit such an obscene sin was a heathen. Many people are punished in this novel internally and externally. Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Pearl are all characters who were punished in some way throughout the book. The punishment people received and endured because of their sins, or the sins of those around them, were prevalent throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter.

One character in the story that had to endure punishment because of her sin was Hester Prynne. Hester was made an outcast and was looked down upon because of the sin that she committed. The people of the town did not give her a chance to show what a wonderful person she was, because they automatically assumed that she was a heathen. They believed that they should never again accept her as one of them. "Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by other organs and senses than the rest of human kind" (Hawthorne, 87). This quote means that Hester felt that she was completely alienated from society and was looked upon as less than others in the town. Hester Prynne was also punished by having to wear the scarlet letter "A" on her chest. The letter was a constant reminder to her, and the people around her, of what she had done, and she thought that was what she would always be defined as. "...she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion" (Hawthorne, 83). This quote shows that Hester felt like she was viewed as the epitome of sin. Hester felt as if she would never again have an identity true to who she really was. She was a very strong and tolerant woman. Because of the strength she exemplified, she would later become someone people would come to in their times of trouble.

Another character in the story that was punished because of his sin was Arthur Dimmesdale. Because Reverend Dimmesdale's sin was unknown to everyone in the town, he was not punished externally, as Hester was. However, he knew what he had done and so his guilt and shame was constantly torturing him internally. "...And yet, by the constitution of his nature, he loved the truth and loathed the lie, as few men ever did. Therefore, above all things else, he loathed his miserable self" (Hawthorne, 141). This quote shows how Reverend Dimmesdale's guilt consumed his every thought and made him hate himself. Mr. Dimmesdale could never get what he had done off of his mind, and even did things like beat himself to get his mind off of it for even a moment. However, he could not bring himself to confess because the people look up to him and he knew that if he told them the truth, it would ruin his career and status forever. "They deemed the young clergyman a miracle of holiness. They fancied him the mouthpiece of heaven's messages of wisdom and rebuke and love. In their eyes, the very ground on which he trod was sanctified" (Hawthorne, 139). This quote shows how much the town respected Dimmesdale and expected of him. This was yet another punishment for Dimmesdale because he was guilty for misleading the people of the town as well. He was supposed to be "heaven sent" and a picture of perfection. Now he felt like he was a fraud.

In addition to Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale, Pearl was another character in the story that was punished. However, Pearl was punished, not because of a sin she committed, but because of



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