Individual Versus the Puritan Society (Scarlet Letter Essay)

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As people have progressed through history, they have created rules and regulations to live by to prevent others from making wrong choices. More often than not, the consequences for disobeying these rules are reasonable and just. However, rules in certain societies hinder and harm a person, rather than correct their mistake. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, exposes the rigidity and cruelty of the Puritan society through the characters and plot. Set in the early colonization of New England, Hawthorne demonstrates society’s oppression on several characters through one woman’s mistake. The heroine, Hester Prynne, is cast away from society because of her sin against the church. Due to her birth, Pearl is also ostracized within the community. Finally, Arthur Dimmesdale’s demise is caused from the guilt and pain he feels of not fulfilling society’s expectation. Hawthorne illustrates that the Puritan society suppresses the individuals that do not abide by the community’s rules.

In the 1600s, women lived a relatively comfortable life, despite having a lesser status than men. Because of this inequality between the sexes, the women of the past were punished much more harshly and unfairly by the society’s forefathers. Religion also greatly influenced a civilian’s life during this time period. Hence, Hester Prynne is suppressed by society because of the sin she committed against the church. By committing the sin of adultery in a religion-based community, Hester is forced to stand on a scaffold to be publicly humiliated for three hours, as well as forced to wear the scarlet “A” on her chest for the rest of her life to show the world that she is an adulterate. This unusual punishment ostracizes Hester from the community and the townspeople look down upon her with contempt. Despite Hester’s attempts of staying strong with the sign of shame on her chest, society constantly tries to undermine her and does not let her forget her mistake. Hawthorne demonstrates...
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