Prynne Punishment

In The Scarlet Letter, what is Hester's punishment and what do the Puritan magistrates hope to accomplish with this punishment?

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krounds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hester Prynne's punishment in "The Scarlet Letter" is literally to wear the scarlet letter 'A' on her clothes at all times. The symbol's meant to identify Hester as a sinner and an adulteress in her community. Hester and her young daughter Pearl are ostracized as a result of her punishment. Hester and Pearl live in a cottage on the outskirts of town, right on the edge of the forest in order to escape the judgmental eyes of the townsfolk. The Puritan Magistrates hope to turn Hester into an example of how not to behave in life. In turn, she becomes a social pariah, yet in spite of all this Hester maintains her dignity.     

katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hester's punishment is that she's required to wear a scarlet letter "A" on the bosom, or chest, of her dress. This will easily identify her as an adulteress to anyone who sees her. The magistrates hope that Hester will feel the shame of her sin more profoundly, since everyone will know what she did and, therefore, shun her because of it. They eventually end up ostracizing her--physically and emotionally-- from this community, thus ridding it of another sinner.

laurto | Student

Her punishment is to wear the Scarlet Letter. This doesn't seem like much but it actually a physical reminder of her "sin". She has to go everywhere with that thing on her and people don't treat her like a person, they see her as a different species. Her daughter Pearl was also affected by her punishment because she was excluded. She didn't have a normal life and couldn't talk to children her age. The Magistrates hope that she will be shamed that she will be shunned. 

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The Scarlet Letter

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