How do most townspeople regard Hester's punishment?

Expert Answers
pirateteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most of the women (or gossips as Hawthorne refers to theme) believe that Hester Prynne has received too lenient of a punishment. They believe that the magistrates went to light on her because of her beauty, and believe that she should face a harsher punishment.  They worry that if they do not punish women like Hester, others may follow her lead and that she will not learn from her mistakes.

"Goodwives,” said a hard-featured dame of fifty, “I'll tell ye a piece of my mind. It would be greatly for the public behoof, if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactress as this Hester Prynne. What think ye, gossips? If the hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worshipful magistrates have awarded? Marry, I trow not!”

They know that if they had been in charge of her punishment, and not the male magistrates, she would have had a much harsher (and appropriate in their opinion) punishment.  They suggest that she be branded, deported, or even executed. They feel her current punishment (just wearing the A) can easily be covered or removed, so she should have something more permanent in order to truly learn her lesson.

“At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me. But she,—the naughty baggage,—little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!”

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question