Colonial Law and Society in "The Scarlet Letter?How do religous beliefs and colonial laws intermingle in this story? To what extent do religion and law mix in modern American society?
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Infidelity, first, is primarily a matter scorned by religion more than society. Laws in colonial times carried severe penalties for relationship cheaters, particularly if they were women (see The Scarlet Letter). What's more, women who were "known" to be promiscuous became objects of community gossip, and were considered outcasts. Infidelity and prostitution were virtually equated with one another. It was thought that if a woman was willing to gratify men outside marriage, it didn't really matter how she was going about it, whether harlot or housewife. The punishment of biblical violations was largely a colonial and early American practice, though some holdovers currently remain within our 21st century judicial system. For instance, we continue to hold true to certain biblical commandments such as "Thou shalt not kill," and "Thou shalt not steal." And while these commandments may seem more like common sense than canonical laws, our country's forefathers often looked to their religious leanings for guidance in constructing our country's legal framework. One only needs look at certain states' "blue laws" for an in-depth understanding of how religion has affected the formation of our modern-day social conscience.