In The Scarlet Hetter what is Hawthorne saying about the Puritan women of the New World ?

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pirateteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As The Scarlet Letter opens, Hawthorne takes the opportunity to give the reader his opinions of the New World women.  Long before we see Hester and her baby exit the jail, we hear what the women think about the young mother.  The women (or as Hawthorne calls them the "gossips") claim that the men of the town have been to lenient on young Hester because of her beauty.  They believe that if they were in charge she would have received her due punishment- branding, deportment, or even death.  Instead, they feel that simply forcing her to wear a letter (which they point out can easily be covered or removed) doesn't adequately give Hester the opportunity to learn her lesson from her mistakes.

In this chapter Hawthorne is showing us the harsh, judgmental side of the Puritan town.  A town that was built for people wishing religious freedom is still quick to judge (and punish) those who step away from their moral codes.

“This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go.

The harsh women feel that Hester has brought embarssament to the town, and that without punishment others may follow her nefarious example.


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The Scarlet Letter

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