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Hawthorne tries to be objective to Puritans showing their good and bad traits in the plot of the novel; he embraces Puritan ideology when it comes to personal traits and values; however, he critiques its practices of biased attitude, severity of laws and collective sense of guilt.
Puritans believed that people were born sinners and they had to devote their lives to purify themselves. The sense of guilt was considered to be collective; once the sin was confessed, the punishment needed to be introduced. In Puritan tradition, public shame was the biggest punishment for all people. Peer-policing and judgmental attitude to each other worked effectively to detect and scapegoat “a bad apple” (Johnson). This tradition was depicted through people’s attitude to Hester Prynne and her child. Marked by the scarlet A, she was supposed to be excluded from the society where she lived. Moreover, she was expected to suffer from guilt and shame caused by this severe punishment. Refusal to make a public confession was unacceptable in Puritan community where Hester lived. She understood that she attracts even more attention when she refused to confess, but she cared about the future of Dimmesdale who was too weak to behave the same way.
Despite the expected development of the plot, Hester perceived her sin as a lesson to learn. She developed a great will power and strength to survive public humiliation and isolation. First of all, she did not disclose the personality of Pearl’s father who was a local preacher. Second of all, she learned to live under the circumstances which were designed to humiliate her without guilt. Instead of being destroyed by the sense of guilt, Hester was ready to face the consequences of her “sin” and cope with them. For instance, when the day of her punishment took place, she “sustained herself as best a woman might” (Hawthorne). She objected people who wanted to take away her daughter from her
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