Puritans and The Scarlet Letter

Hester Prynne is a married woman who goes to America to get settled ahead of her husband, Roger Prynne while he stays behind to finish a few last affairs he has in Europe. While Hester is in Boston, she falls in love with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Their love for each other grows more and more and they begin to act upon it. Before too long there is no turning back, Hester had conceived Arthurs child. When the townspeople find out that Hester is pregnant, and not by her husband, they through her in prison, however, they cannot make Hester give the name of her partner in crime, the father of her child.

As Hester’s punishment, she has to stitch the letter “A”, which stands for the adulterer, on a piece of cloth and then pin it to her breast and wear it the rest of her life to shame her. Hester also has to stand alone on the scaffold of the pillory while the townspeople all stand around staring and mocking her. (Hawthorne, 42) The leaders and the reverend of the town try their best to get the name of her child’s father but with no result. Hester’s punishment was not very harsh compared to the biblical and legal punishments that were available at this time. In Puritan society, adultery was not seen merely as a matter between the two people, but as a breach of contract between those individuals and the community. Even if a husband wanted his wife who had committed adultery to be saved, she could be sentenced to die as a result of the community’s obligations to its moral and legal statutes. Corporal punishment, or whipping, was the usual punishment for adultery, however, in 1694, a Plymouth law called for an “A” to be displayed on the dress of the adulterer.

Major John Hathorne, Hawthorne’s ancestor, was magistrate in Salem in 1688. He ordered a woman by the name of Hester Craford to be severely whipped for fornication with John Wedg. Because Hester was pregnant with an illegitimate child Hathorne said to delayed the w…