Why is the Puritan Society the antagonists of the Scarlet letter? If you had to pick one would you pick chillingworth or the Puritan Society as the antangonist? Why? Give Examples.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is an indictment of the intrinsic hypocrisy of the Puritan creed, a stringent and inhumane creed that gave birth to witch hunts.  And, while Chillingworth is certainly the antagonist of the Reverend Dimmesdale and Hester, it is only because of this Puritan creed that he is enabled to be this antagonist.  For, were it possible for Hester and Dimmesdale to be forgiven within their religious community, they could confess.  But, instead, they must harbor secret sin. ( It is only Hester's pregnancy that reveals her sin, as Hawthorne indicates when other maidens blush at the sight of the scarlet letter.)

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that the Puritan society is the antagonist. Hester's problem is her act that they all know about. She has to live with the evidence of her crime and continually be drowned in guilt. The Puritans will kill her partner as soon as she reveals an identity, so she has to live with either the guilt of not telling on him, or the guilt of being the one to speak the words that will take his life. This is a greater struggle than the developing complication that is Roger Chillingworth.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that it's the Puritan society because it is the society that has put Hester in the position she is in.  She is struggling mostly against the morality of the society as a whole.  I think that is her real struggle, not anything to do with Chillingworth.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think it's a lit bit of both, but Chillington is a problem because of the society. Without the Puritan Society being so domineering and wanting to control every person's every move, there would not be a place for people like Chillington to serve as antagonists.

because they shun hester and exclude her from society.

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The Scarlet Letter

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