The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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How do most townspeople regard Hester's punishment in The Scarlet Letter?

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The women of the town are particularly vindictive and cold towards Hester and are waiting on the day her fate is first decided to cast judgement on her. Most every woman of the town is the very image of a staunch puritanical prude and contends throughout the beginning of the novel that Hester's punishment was far too lenient. They would, given their way, have the letter branded on her forehead instead of worn on her clothes. This is even relatively mild compared to others, who would have her exiled or even killed.

Many of the women are described as being homely and plain, and indeed, they seem envious of Hester's beauty. They insist that this is why the male magistrates went easy on her.

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At first, the townspeople either feel Hester's punishment is just or even that her punishment was far too lenient given her crime. The townswomen are the ones who feel the latter, thinking Hester should be branded or killed for her sexual transgression. They do not want the impressionable young girls of...

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