Moral Law Vs Natural Law In The Scarlet Letter

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Moral Law Vs. Natural Law "At the dramatic center of The Scarlet Letter is the idea of the awesomeness and inescapability of the Moral Law, to which all else is finally submitted,"� (Levy 384).

Assuming that Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter exploring the relationship between Moral law and Natural law, he chooses the moral laws to be absolute. Using definitions of nature and character provided by Seymour Katz applied to the terms natural law and moral law allow an extension of Leo Levy's claim that Moral laws are supreme. Moral law is an internalization of normalizing aspects of society it, "is acquired in time through nurture, education, and social experience. The older the individual the more fixed and stable is his character, and the less likely he is to act outside of the principles of his society or his role,"� (Katz 5). The natural law is being in a condition where society cannot impose any rules or laws, "It is undirected impulse or potential energy which the individual will expend and express in various ways in the course of his life,"� (4). By applying the definitions of natural law and moral law to the way Hawthorne reveals the truth in the novel and to the development of the character Pearl, Hawthorne proves that moral law is the dominant form of law in The Scarlet Letter.

In the forest natural laws should be supreme. Here, the black man or devil makes his home, Mistress Hibbons goes to perform her witchcraft, and Hester and Dimmesdale commit their adultery (Hawthorne 144-145). Moral law forbids each of these three things. Only in the forest, a place where moral law does not apply, can any of these things happen. From a very early age people are taught by the moral laws that the forest contains evil.

"But she fancied me asleep when she was talking of it. She said that a thousand and a thousand people had met him here, and had written in his book, and have his mark on them. And that ugly-tempered lady, Old Mistress Hibbons, was one. And, mother, the old dame said that this scarlet letter was the Black Man's mark on thee, and that it glows like a red flame when thou meetest him at midnight, here in the dark wood."� (126) Pearl, at the age of seven, already understands the forest contains evil. This normalizing aspect of moral law teaches the society that the representation of natural law, the forest, is evil. Thus, the moral laws quickly gain an advantage over the natural, before an individual is old enough to form their own opinion on the matter.

Another way the moral law proves to be supreme is when examining another theme in the text, hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is so wide spread, even the Reverend Dimmesdale, introduced possessing an, "eloquence and religious fervor [having] already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession,"� (48). This quality combined with a, "dewy purity of thought, which, as many people said, affected them like the speech of an angel,"� (48) caused Dimmesdale to be perceived as a model of purity and godliness for his congregation despite committing a sin incomprehensible to them. Even after his confession his society does not believe the truth that Dimmesdale committed adultery. This shows how strong the character of Dimmesdale is imagined to be by his people.

Because the truth is often obscured by hypocrisy, where the truth is found there will be a very strong reflection on the relationship between moral law, and natural law. In the forest, when Pearl asks Hester what the scarlet letter means and why she wears it, Hester lies to her child for the first time. "What does the letter mean, mother? -and why dost thou wear it?"¦.And as for the scarlet letter, I wear it for the sake of its gold thread! In all the seven bygone years, Hester Prynne had never before been false to the symbol on her bosom,"� (123). Hester lies to her child for the first time while they are in the forest because she is taught to be ashamed of her sin by the moral laws. These laws have a...
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