Hester Prynne Punishment In Scarlet Letter

791 Words4 Pages
Punishment of Puritans for their sins occurred harshly and frequently, and these punishments ranged from fines, branding, and severe whippings to hanging and death. Many of these penalties involved public humiliation of some kind, which made it extremely difficult for townspeople to accept by their peers after they had sinned. Because the Puritans believed religion was immensely important, the community was often reluctant to allow citizens that exhibited sinful behavior to achieve redemption (Cox). However, in the case of Hester Prynne, an adulterer in Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter, the townspeople eagerly made amends with her. This novel narrates the life of Hester Prynne, who committed adultery and courageously accepted the repercussions…show more content…
Hester and her daughter, Pearl, were constantly ridiculed by the inhabitants of the town, and many citizens believed that Hester deserved a harsher penalty for her actions. One woman mocked Hester while gossiping with her peers when she declared, “‘This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die’” (36). Agreeing with this claim, many of the villagers continued to mock and scrutinize not only Hester’s actions, but Hester herself. Another woman suggested that “‘a brand of hot iron [should have been put] on Hester Prynne’s forehead’” (36). While this sentence seems less harsh than death, this woman’s comment proves that she too believed that Hester deserved a severe punishment for her despicable sin. Considering the townspeople’s reactions toward Hester’s sin of adultery, it can be concluded that in the Puritan era, religion was of utmost importance, and the Puritans met sins with extremely harsh punishments. Because the majority of the Puritan town viewed Hester as a disgrace, she became “Lonely . . . and without a friend on earth” (56). This made it effortless for the inhabitants of the town to continue to insult and degrade Hester because they did not care to learn her true personality. While a few civilians had sympathy for Hester, the town mostly regarded her as shameful and…show more content…
Although the community originally knew Hester as a disgrace, the town’s opinion of her changed over time as she began to do work for the poor and needy. After this shift in the town’s view of Hester, “many people refused to interpret the scarlet [letter] by its original signification” (111). Instead of Hester’s scarlet letter serving as a reminder of her scandalous sin, her peers “ had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as a token . . . of [Hester’s] many good deeds” (111). She became known for her charity and generosity, which caused the civilians to overlook her sinful behavior. The villagers began to believe that Hester was the embodiment of a woman’s strength, and they praised her for the work she had done for those less fortunate than her. They had faith that Hester could do anything she set her mind to because she was “‘so kind to the poor . . . [and] helpful to the sick’” (111). They viewed Hester’s kindness as strength and overlooked her sin because of her charitable deeds. While the her peers still remembered Hester’s previous actions, most citizens believed she evolved into a respectable person in spite of these actions, and they thought confessing her sin made her stronger. Overall, the seven years that passed allowed Hester to achieve redemption through her generous, charitable

More about Hester Prynne Punishment In Scarlet Letter

Open Document