Hawthorne portrays Hester’s sin of adultery as less critical to emphasize the hypocrisy of the Puritan society. For instance, the Puritans claim to put their faith into the Bible; however, they do not follow the moral codes they advocate themselves. Likewise, Hester’s sin of committing adultery is taken more severely than Chillingworth’s search for revenge. Furthermore, Dimmesdale, the most hypocritical of all, allows Hester to take all the blame up until the end of the novel. Thus, Hawthorne depicts the Puritans as hypocritical beings by showing the audience that they do follow their own rules.
There are many instances when Hawthorne criticizes the Puritan society. For example, the Puritans who witness Hester Prynne’s consequence at the scaffold are extremely unforgiving and are unwilling to look past her transgression. While the Scripture says to forgive, one woman deliberately says that “this woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die” (48). This ungodly remark puts this woman to shame because the Bible tells everyone to forgive and forget. Another matron at the market place says that the magistrates are “merciful overmuch” and that “they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead” (49) because when the scarlet letter is on Hester’s body, she is able to “cover it with a brooch”. These women are pitiless and do not follow the moral guidelines of the Bible, where it tells followers not to condemn others, but to pray for them instead. In addition, Hester already has to “sustain and carry” the scarlet letter that is upon her bosom, “taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself” (51). The scarlet letter that is branded on Hester’s chest results in her isolation from society because the Puritans act as if committing adultery is the worst sin of all. As a result, Hawthorne emphasizes the hypocrisy of the Puritans by contrasting their actions to their beliefs.
Hawthorne specifically presents Hester’s sin of committing adultery as less extreme than Chillingworth’s search for revenge to rebuke the Puritan society. Chillingworth becomes essentially, an evil fiend, which he admits himself to be. He allows his immorality “to be written on his features” and his road to revenge consumes him. Though Hester betrays her husband, Chillingworth’s goal should not be torturing Dimmesdale. When Hester and Chillingworth meet near the beach, “there came a glare of red light out of his eyes as if the old man’s soul were on fire” (153). Chillingworth resembles the devil, but is not censured by the Puritan society. Throughout Chillingworth’s search for revenge, the Puritan society does not make any remarks about his evil doings. The focus is always primarily on Hester and is never shifted towards Chillingworth, or anyone else in the novel, which reiterates Hawthorne’s point that Hester’s sin is taken most intensely. Hawthorne uses Hester’s secret lover, Dimmesdale, to show us that Dimmesdale is the most hypocritical of all. In the beginning of the novel when Reverend Wilson demands Hester to say her lovers name, Dimmesdale questions Hester, “What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him – yea, compel him, as it were – to add hypocrisy to sin?” (63). Dimmesdale tells Hester to reveal her secret companion because if her