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Why did Hawthorne chose Puritan New England as the setting for The Scarlet Letter? Does...

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dixiechick1976 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:30 AM via web

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Why did Hawthorne chose Puritan New England as the setting for The Scarlet Letter? Does that location help him get his main message across?

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goreadabook | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted June 6, 2009 at 9:58 AM (Answer #1)

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Puritanism is characterized by the advocation of purity, piety, and conservativism.  The Puritans held strong religious beliefs, especially in regards to sexuality, which amplifies the depth of the sin of adultery that Hester is charged with committing.  Hawthorne used Puritan New England as the setting of nearly all of his writing simply because he liked to challenge the ideals of this group of people and demonstrate their narrow viewpoints by contrasting them with characters who challenge their beliefs.

The setting of this story helps to portray the role of the individual in society and demonstrates how a majority viewpoint can suppress individuality.  Puritanism used fear as a tool to persuade members of society to behave in a pure and moral fashion and any deviation resulted in severe humiliation and punishment.  The freedom to be an individual and claim the right to make your own choices was not condoned in Purtitan New England.

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