Punishment And Forgiveness In The Scarlett Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Would you punish someone for life for something they were sorry for? In the book, The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne which was set at Boston in the 1850s. Hester Prynne, who is the main character committed adultery which gave her a baby girl. The city did not approve of this and determined that she would wear a large scarlet letter “A” to represent shame. Hester also accepted the punishment for her actions and did not try to disobey her punishment by not wearing the “A”. I think that anyone who reads this book and understands what she has done and how kind she was they would agree that Hester redeems herself and becomes a respectable woman. Forgiveness helps everyone, not just the sinner.
The first point I want to discuss is that Hester was nice to everyone and she learned from her mistakes. One way she proved that was because she broke off her relationship with Reverend Dimmesdale. Ah, but,’ interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, ‘let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart'(Hawthorne, 9). This quote is significant because it shows that not everyone looks down on her with disappointment. The woman also feels sorry for Hester and the situation that she is in. She has a child too and nobody is perfect so she might have a secret too. ‘for the accumulating days, and added years, would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame'(Hawthorne, 33). This quote is the largest impact on Hester because this changes her life. This quote shows that the punishment to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her clothing is for the rest of her life and to be looked down upon by the city members for the rest of her life. This changed her life but she suffered through it with a positive attitude. This shows that her punishment is not light at all and the people take her sin really seriously.
Her punishment is very harsh, but she is not angry at everyone for giving her that punishment. She is very kind and respectful to everyone despite her situation. If she was mean about her punishment everyone would hate her even more and nobody at all would have any sympathy for her. By being kind to everyone she gives a great example for her daughter on how to be kind to people even when they are looking down on you with hatred. ‘That little creature, whose innocent life had sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence… out of the rank luxuriance of passion'(Hawthorne, 42). This quote is significant because it shows that Pearl has always been a reminder to Hester of what she has done and when everyone looks at Pearl who is innocent, they think of the sin that Hester committed with another man. It also shows that Pearl can also help Hester redeem herself in her own eyes because she is raising Pearl well and how to treat everyone respectfully. ‘So Pearl, the elf-child –the demon offspring… became the richest heiress of her day'(Hawthorne, 204). This shows how far Pearl has come and how she has changed over the years. It shows how she ended well implemented into the real world and social life. She also becomes a person of power and privilege in the community while being respected. This shows how someone who has a bad situation can still do something good and in Hester’s situation, she raised Pearl who turned out to be a great daughter and person.
Hester has done many good things in her life but everyone looked at the bad things, one good thing is that she took her punishment and stayed in the community that runs on judgment instead of leaving to go somewhere else. ‘the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost…'(Hawthorne, 35). This shows how all they can do is force her to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her chest but Hester is allowing herself to go through the punishment and staying in the community. If someone now was allowed to leave the city and not be punished for an illegal act, everyone would be doing it but since Hester was nice she endured through the punishment. This can show how she viewed everyone and what she thought of the situation. She could have been mean to everyone and left but she didn’t so she has more respect from everyone. ‘It was none the less a fact, however, that, in the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. ‘ This quote is really good because it shows that in their view they are giving her what she deserves by embarrassing her for the rest of her life but in an outside perspective, Hester is being nicer than everyone in the community and showing them how she can be better than all of them even with the Scarlett letter on her clothing. So, Hester’s punishment ended up showing how bad of a community they were and how most everyone there was rude to everyone they didn’t like which is wrong for anyone to do.
So, in conclusion; forgiving does not just make the person feel happy, it helps everyone around you. For Hester to be positive to everyone even though everyone is looking down on you is a hard task. Hester was able to overcome this battle and still respect everyone like a friend. This was a great impact on her daughter Pearl because she was always watching Hester and learning from her. This turned out being a great thing to happen to Pearl because she ended up being a successful person who was respected by everyone in the community. I think that she has definitely redeemed herself and should earn the respect of everyone in the community even though she sinned in the past. The one big thing that is important is to always be nice to everyone, it might not be visible on the surface but it really affects everyone. This was demonstrated very well in the book The scarlet letter very well by how everyone treated Hester and her positive response.
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