Crime and the Scarlet Letter
Sadomasochists Will Not Be Satisfied With The Scarlet Letter “Thou shalt not devote adultery” (Exodus 20:14). “If a man dedicates infidelity with the better half of his next-door neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress will be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). Puritans carried this Scriptural credence to the very letter. Puritans were all about order in their society, attained through strict laws and rules. The love between a married couple corresponded moral and spiritual responsibilities (eHow), therefore when infidelity was devoted, it was seen as the supreme sin.
Though murder might have something to state about that, infidelity was a capital offense in Puritan society. Thus, people who committed adultery might be put to death (eHow). Of course, the possibility of public embarrassment always exists, which is exactly what occurs in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hester is permanently displayed with the letter ‘A’ on her bosom as noticeable punishment for devoting the abhorrent act of infidelity with an unidentified third-party. Now that Hester uses the ‘A’ on her person, the concern now becomes whether the punishment associates to the seriousness of the crime, in this case being adultery.
Compared to the possibility of execution, just using a letter on her chest seems to be the equivalent of “getting off the hook”. Nevertheless, public penalty is not the like private punishment. In Chapter 5, we see Hester speaking about staying in the town instead of leaving: Here, she said to herself, had actually been the scene of her regret, and here ought to be the scene of her earthly penalty; and so, perchance, the torture of her everyday pity would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the outcome of martyrdom.
If we are to base the connection between penalty and the seriousness of the criminal activity solely on Hester’s public penalty, her guilt, then no doubt is the punishment not suitable for the crime of adultery. Reasonably speaking, Puritan culture deemed adultery as a capital offense, so for Hester to not have been executed for the act is not in accordance with Puritan law. However, it’s the private punishment, her embarassment, which is perhaps worse than death herself. While Hester certainly feels guilt, in regards to her being responsible for the adulterous act, she likewise feels shame.
She is avoided by the neighborhood and is required to isolate herself from society itself. While Hester is probably bothered by the pity of committing infidelity, Dimmesdale is bothered with the regret. As specified previously, guilt is more of feeling accountable for an action, while shame deals with the inner effects of said action. Dimmesdale does not need to handle any private penalties, because his identity as an adulterer is avoided the public. Nonetheless, he feels deathly accountable for not just his adulterous act with Hester, however what happens to her as a result.
In Chapter 12, we see how terribly Dimmesdale manages the guilt of his transgressions: Poor, unpleasant man! What right had infirmity like his to problem itself with criminal offense? Criminal activity is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to withstand it, or, if it press too hard, to apply their intense and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off at the same time! Dimmesdale just is not cut out for devoting criminal offenses, being too weak and good-natured. For every single second that passes, Dimmesdale’s regret increases, while his emotional and physical resilience decrease.
For Dimmesdale’s case, since we are dealing with the external, physical results of infidelity, the penalty does not match the crime. Dimmesdale handles the torment for many years, bringing into question whether that scarlet letter was even required. Even later, we see how Hawthorne views sin and its results on the soul when he composes, “and be the stern and sad fact spoken, that the breach which regret has actually as soon as made into the human soul is never, in this mortal state, repaired” (Chapter 18). Whenever someone sins, there appears to happen permanent damage to the human soul, leaving a susceptible hole.
As an effect of the guilt, Dimmesdale now has this gaping hole in his soul. Returning to Hester, the punishment provided to her appears to ultimately backfire, however gradually. Though she ends up being an outcast, in no small part due to the ‘A’, Hester is still able to support herself, thanks to her needlework. As years pass, we see that Hester continues to help the sick and the bad. Some of the townspeople still take a look at the ‘A’ with reject, but the interpretation of the ‘A’ is starting to alter from Adulterer to Able.
Ultimately, Hester totally removes the letter from her clothes after creating the plan for her, Dimmesdale, and Pearl to move to Europe. Suddenly, that severe private penalty brought on by the ‘A’ seems to have no result any longer. Time is definitely a factor to the reduced efficiency of her penalty, along with occasions in between when Hester initially had the ‘A’ and when she eliminated it. The penalty decreed upon her was effective because it cause private penalty within Hester herself.
Due to the seclusion, she feels the burn of her pity, and she can’t even discover a companion to share the shame with due to the isolation. In terms of making sure an individual feels embarassment about an act, the punishment upon Hester was more than enough. Still, a concern emerges from this: exists a law for pity? There currently is a recognized law for regret, highlighter by the scarlet letter, but what about pity? Whether subliminally, subattentionally, or straight, temptations may make us do things that we would not want to do.
For every single action, there is a reaction, whether negative or favorable. In this respect, devoting infidelity is no different. There is no such thing as the ideal human, and yet we thrive for perfection in our own independent methods. When the human mind is so steadily focused on achieving perfection, it can not comprehend the complete opposite. If we discover someone not measuring up to our requirements, the very first thing we will do is slam him/her as an inferior being. As soon as individuals saw the ‘A’ on Hester, they right away projected sensations of negativeness towards her.
The townspeople avoided and degraded her, and even those she chooses to assist, consisting of the poor, deteriorate her. In the townspeople’s eyes, Hester was not just the physical manifestation of sin, but likewise for the mental destruction that comes as a result of sinning. With infidelity in The Scarlet Letter, the question must be asked: how is it possible for a penalty to be produced for devoting infidelity? Infidelity is an ethical issue, and as such, there is an individual stigma attached to adultery.
If someone commits infidelity, there ought to be no outdoors third-party searching in. Due to the fact that adultery is such a personal matter, the only ones involved need to be the people who were involved. As far as cultural relativism goes, we see how a criminal activity like infidelity can be punished, however does that necessarily imply a person must be punished as an outcome of dedicating infidelity? Would not just devoting infidelity itself currently punish an individual? Dimmesdale is a perfect example of a person being punished for the act itself, as we see his psychological and physical degradation as the years pass.
Is infidelity a major criminal activity? Of course it is, but the scarlet letter proves to be too much of a penalty for the criminal activity. It might just be a letter, but that ‘A’ hurt not just Hester and Dimmesdale, but likewise the people around them. Chances are that the people included currently struggled with the criminal activity itself, therefore making any further punishment null and space. Bibliography Johnson, C. About the Puritan Belief on Adultery. eHow. Retrieved February 11, 2012, from http://www. ehow. com/about _ 4570042_puritan-belief-adultery. html