Theme Of Punishment In The Scarlet Letter

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Pick a Punishment In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale are plagued by “The Grass is Greener” Syndrome. Hester must bear her shame publicly while Dimmesdale is stricken silent of his misdoings. Because Hester is forced into penance for her adultery, she is afforded the opportunity to eventually work through her shortcomings and the emotions associated with her shame and guilt. Dimmesdale has not had such a luxury and becomes the sufferer of much anguish while thinking that his anguish would disappear if only he could confess. Hawthorne uses juxtaposed characters to discuss themes of crime and punishment as well as the consequences of one wanting to pick his own punishment. Hester is forced to work through her crime of adultery. Instead of allowing herself to feel her shame publicly, she stands tall and bears the torment of the townspeople. Instead of bending to the will of the people to expose Pearl’s father, Hester remains silent, and in doing so, gives Dimmesdale the opportunity to choose how to handle his mistakes. Hester would not allow her Pearl to be taken from her: she takes ownership of the consequences of her faults. This strength leads her into a dark mental state in which she thinks of killing her young Pearl in a contemplated murder-suicide. She later works through her shame and owns what she has done, ultimately deciding for herself how she would allow her fate to work in her life. Hester allows herself to be

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