Scarlet Letter Comparison To Modern Punishment

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade September 2001

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In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes about the story of a woman named Hester Prynne and her life after she was publicly punished for being an adulteress. In early colonial America, life was dominated by religion in an effort to create a perfect Puritan society. Sinfulness and immorality were totally prohibited, and the people and elders in the town they lived in publicly humiliated those who committed iniquity. In addition, sinners were forced to wear the letter that represented the sin they committed on their chest, as well as other punishments such as whipping and jail time. The letter of shame that will be examined is the S for "stoner." The S is probably among the top five letters of shame that would appear on the chests of people in the town of Ukiah. "Stoner" means a person who smokes marijuana and gets high on a daily or weekly basis.

In Ukiah, most all people have in one way or another been influenced by marijuana (also known as weed). This town perhaps has one of the biggest populations of stoners among the small towns of California, maybe even the United States. To combat this problem, the city of Ukiah should use public shaming, just as the people of early colonial America. By doing this, people will be humiliated and later feel remorseful for their sinful and inexplicable acts, especially getting stoned. By using this method, Ukiah will go back to being the moral representation of the perfect society it once was in its days of glory.

The letter of shame in The Scarlet Letter and the one that should be used in Ukiah are similar in a couple of ways. For example, in the novel, Hester Prynne was forced to wear the letter A for her sin. Through the years of her humiliation, she was constantly looked down upon and became remorseful over her sin. Later in the novel, she even improved her position in they eyes of the people in her town and became an even better person than before. For this reason, the stoners will experience the same feelings that Hester Prynne felt and turn from their immoral ways. In addition, the sinful in both societies will turn away from their sin even more quickly, and people who are tempted to smoke weed will think twice before attempting to do so. In contrast, the letter A in a small Puritan society had more effect than the letter S would in a city like Ukiah, as there are tons more stoners in towns now than adulteresses in colonial New England.

In conclusion, America's attitude towards crime and punishment should, in addition to private condemnation, use public shaming to help morality instilled in the hearts and minds of people and better promote the well being of this great nation that God has given us.