"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Essay by oyootHigh School, 11th gradeA-, May 2003

download word file, 4 pages 4.5

A Lonesome Island in the Treacherous Sea

Into the unforgiving world of the Puritan society was born an innocent child. However, something set her apart from the other children; she was the result of a terrible sin, adultery. Since her birth, Pearl is shunned as an outcast of society. She is tangled in a web of lies and secrets, while all she wants to know is the truth about her identity. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pearl, born into the harsh Puritan Society, symbolizes wisdom and curiosity, while at the same time she is the link between some of the main characters.

The Puritan society has a very strict set of rules and morals. Anyone who dared to commit a crime or break the law was immediately made an example of by either being executed, publicly humiliated, or put in jail, as supported by the following:

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.


The Puritans believed that adultery was a very serious sin. If a person committed adultery, their punishment would be to live on the outskirts of the city, and wear the scarlet letter "A" symbolizing adultery. This letter had an extremely bad connotation as shown by one of the old dames of the city:

It were well, muttered the most iron-visaged of the old dames, if we stripped Madam Hester's rich gown off her dainty shoulders; and as for the red letter, which she hath stitched so curiously, I'll bestow a rag of mine own rheumatic flannel, to make a fitter one! (52)

Hester is convicted...