The Scarlet Letter Essay examples

Submitted By mitchumparker28
Words: 878
Pages: 4

150 Years of Adultery In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, protagonist Hester Prynne is exiled from society when she is forced to dawn a scarlet “A” upon her chest. This is punishment for Hester’s adulterous union with Arthur Dimmesdale, followed by the birth of their illegitimate child. Although, written one hundred and fifty years ago Hawthorne’s novel contains concepts and insights still relevant to today’s readers. Hawthorne’s themes of sin, judgment, feminism, and redemption have made The Scarlet Letter a lasting piece of American literature. To commit a sin is to commit an immoral act against divine law. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester and Dimmesdale commit the sin of adultery. In 1850 adultery was a very risqué subject. In 1998 President Bill Clinton was accused of having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The news of the extra marital affair resulted in the impeachment of President Clinton. The symbol of the ‘scarlet letter’ has come to represent prevailing social stigmas. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins’s recently launched the “Out Campaign” (Kidder). The “Out Campaign” utilizes an ironic version of the ‘scarlet letter’ to encourage his closet atheists to ‘out’ themselves. Many Americans consider atheism a sin. Throughout The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne explores the theme of sin and it’s influence on society. It’s interesting to ponder whether Hawthorne would approve of Dawkins’s appropriation of his scarlet ‘A’ (Kidder). Individuals must ask themselves is atheism an immoral act against divine law? When society questions whether Dawkins’s campaign is immoral they are judging him. Today, young men and women are judged for everything from their choice of clothing to the person they select to be their spouse. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester is judged by her community for committing adultery. Hawthorne writes, “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead,” (Hawthorne 36). In this novel Hawthorne is presenting the hypocrisy of Hester’s fellow townspeople and their lucid requests for her punishment. In the bible Jesus commands us, “Do not judge.” Hawthorne is illuminating that we as a people are filled to the brim with flaws. Therefore, people with flaws have no right to judge other people’s flaws. However, in a sinful world no community can exist for long if nobody is held accountable for their actions. Without judgment no teacher would grade a student’s performance, no citizen would be required to sit on a jury, nor would unjust leaders be impeached. After Adam fell from grace in the bible, every man and woman was thought to be born an awful and vile sinner who could be redeemed only by God’s grace (Barron). It was not accepted that a person could find redemption through good deeds or by actions which exist within human control. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester and Dimmesdale are a direct reflection of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis. When Hester is branded with the scarlet ‘A’ she suffers in the public eye while Dimmesdale suffers in silence. In literature the woman is considered to be the temptress that leads the man astray. Hester is a woman with an illegitimate child that has corrupted a minister. In modern times feminism still exists. During the 1960’s a popular television series, The Donna Reed Show presented an image of domestic bliss in a pleasant suburban setting (Modern Feminism). With taglines such as “Motherhood is bliss” and “Homemaking is…