A group of them fled to Holland and subsequently to the New World, where they hoped to build a society, described by John Winthrop, as "a city upon a hill" — a place where the "eyes of all people are upon us." In such a place and as long as they followed His words and did their work to glorify His ways, God would bless them, and they would prosper. Hawthorne, of course, presents the irony of this concept when he describes the prison as a building already worn when the colony is only fifteen years old.
Hawthorne's viewpoint of this society seems to be disclosed in several places in the novel but never more so than in the Governor's house in Chapter 7 and during the New England holiday in Chapter 21. On Bellingham's walls are portraits of his forefathers who wear the stately and formal clothing of the Old World. Hawthorne says that, "All were characterized by the sternness and severity which old portraits so invariably put on; as if they were the ghosts, rather than the pictures, of departed worthies, and were gazing with harsh and intolerant criticism at the pursuits and enjoyments of living men."
"the Puritans compressed whatever mirth and public joy they deemed allowable to human infirmity; thereby so far dispelling the customary cloud, that, for the space of a single holiday, they appeared scarcely more grave than most other communities at a period of general affliction." (talking about new England holiday)
The Puritans who settled Massachusetts Bay Colony believed that all mankind was depraved and sinful because of Adam and Eve's fall in the Garden of Eden. Because Adam and Eve were willful and disobedient to God, they brought upon mankind the curse of depravity, sometimes called Original Sin. For this reason, The New England Primer (1683), which was used to teach reading in Puritan schools, began with "A: In Adam's Fall / We sinned all." Most Puritans could be sure of eternal punishment in hell; the few that were "elect" would go to heaven. (the A in Scarlet letter could also symbolise Adam’s fall)
On the other hand, the society built by the Puritans was stern and repressive, with little room for individualism. In this society, the "path of righteousness" was very narrow and taught through stern sermons on guilt and sin. The irony, of course, is in the difference between public knowledge and private actions. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, both "sinners" for their part in this drama, are valued and revered members of this repressive community, while Hester is an outcast because of her publicly acknowledged sin. These "iron men and their rules" provide a backdrop for Hawthorne's story that keeps the conflict alive because public appearances and penance were dramatically important parts of the Puritan community.
In contrast, the forest — seen by the Puritans as the haunt of the Black Man or devil — was a place of little law and order. Those who chose to follow evil signed their name in the Black Man's book and chose a life of sin. Mistress Hibbins symbolizes this world in The Scarlet Letter. These Puritans may speak of branding Hester Prynne in one breath but dance to the devil's music in the forest in their next breath. The meeting between Dimmesdale and Hester takes place in the forest, away from the stern, repressive laws of society. There they can discuss a central conflict of the novel: the needs of human nature as opposed to the laws of society. This conflict is seen even in the early chapters.
When Chillingworth asks a person in the crowd about Hester's crime, he is told that the sentence was softened from death by "their [the magistrates and ministers'] great mercy and tenderness of heart" because she is a beautiful widow and probably was "tempted to her fall (like how Adam was tempted to his downfall by eating the apple when eve suggested him to do so)." The scholar/doctor says this penalty is wise because she will be "a living sermon against sin." The only