How Is The Hypocrisy Used In The Scarlet Letter

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During the 1600s, society was extremely conservative in the sense that most events were labeled as acts of god. This proved to be an issue for those with more secular beliefs and lifestyles because the authorities were picked through the church, and everyone within the community was closely watched for rule breaking. The Scarlet Letter tells the story of a woman by the name of Hester, who breaks the societal rules and religious law in order pursue love and have a child. As punishment by the authorities, she is forced to wear a letter “A” which initially means “adulterer.” However, later in the story, it becomes clear that there is a more complicated rationale behind the letter and the characterization of Hester, which portrays the hypocrisy…show more content…
The letter is intended to be a punishment for Hester and a symbol of shame; however, Hester beautifully embroiders the letter and wears it, instead, with pride. This is demonstrated when Hester is standing in the town’s square to receive her public humiliation. Hawthorne reveals, “ But the point which drew all eyes . . . was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself” (2.2). Here it is emphasized that the original intent of the letter was to shame Hester and make her and the community understand what would happen if a sin was committed. In contrast, through Hawthorne’s description, Hester manages to turn the symbol of shame into strength and beauty, ultimately being ironic in the sense that the letter has the opposite effect the community had hoped. Another way the scarlet letter Hester wears portrays an ironic message is when the Puritan community themselves change the meaning of the letter. Originally, they made Hester wear the letter to label her as an adulterer to exemplify the sin committed and attach shame to the letter.
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