Adultery: Scarlet Letter

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Adultery is a sin never to be taken lightly. However, while it remains a serious crime, determining the requisite punishment for adultery proves difficult. In Nanthaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester, the main character, is forced to wear the letter ‘A' on her chest symbolizing her act of adultery with an unknown person. Through his novel Hawthorne sought to demonstrate how, under certain circumstances, the personal consequences of a crime may serve as sufficient punishment. In early Puritan America, adulterer's generally suffered execution. Yet, in Hester's case, she was only required to wear the scarlet letter as her husband and her lover remained unknown. Wearing the letter ‘A' seems reasonable at first, preserving the adulterers' life while still subjecting him or her to public humiliation and criticism. Nevertheless, were one to consider all the underlying consequences such a punishment produces, the "letters" harshness and cruelty quickly becomes apparent. Physical pain is incomparable to the pain of the mind. Hester's mental anguish as an outcast is caused by her punishment. The personal shame both with oneself and in the eyes of the community are enough retribution and there is no need for a government or society as whole to punish people for crimes that hurt no one else but themselves and which dishonor their own family. For Hester's punishment affects her innocent daughter, Pearl, alienating her from society for her mother's immoral mistakes. The manner in which a person is punished should always match the crime committed. One must ask oneself: How do you create a punishment for committing adultery? For adultery is an ethical crime, one which has no effect upon society. Adultery is a personal crime, for when a person commits this act of violation with another they should be the only ones involved, not the government, not the community. Under the eyes of the Church adultery is a terrible sin and should be severely punished; however, to find...
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