The Effects of Hypocrisy in "The Scarlet Letter"

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The downfall and redemption of an individual surmounted the inherent hypocrisy of Puritanism. Forced to wear the scarlet letter of an adulteress, Hester Prynne struggled to perpetuate dignity in the face of lust and guilt. Spiritual leaders of the community preached strict adherence to Christian dogma which required branding with a scarlet letter. Repeated attempts to survive in the face of adversity failed. Her husband’s use of black magic and the veil of secrecy enforced by him and her lover impeded all efforts to make amends. The elders, acting as God on Judgment Day, sentenced Hester to isolation in a hostile community unwilling to forgive the young woman’s sin as God would. The governor, magistrates, and the townspeople hypocritically advocated a firm belief in the Bible yet practiced non- Christian acts of intolerance. In spite of Governor Bellingham’s promotion of simplicity for the citizenry, he indulged himself in a lavish lifestyle. The allowance of corruption in the newly-formed government was for his own benefit. The clerical magistrates were incompetent as judges, giving Hester an ultimatum to name Pearl’s father or don the symbol of adultery. She adamantly refused, which foreshadowed her downfall, the sacrifice of dignity and social status. The parishioners did not follow the Christian tenants of charity and tolerance. When Hester Prynne appeared in town, the ruthless Puritans shunned her, staring directly at the scarlet as if it were the product of the Devil. Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s estranged husband, was a devil himself; his determination to seek revenge on Reverend Dimmesdale, Hester’s lover, was relentless. At Chillingworth’s insistence that she conceal the marriage further complicated her attempts to encourage Dimmesdale to confess his sin. The stranger endeared himself to the townspeople as a scholarly physician and seized the opportunity to befriend and provide medical treatment to his victim. The mere sight of Chillingworth paralyzed...
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