"Two Scarlet Letters"--compares and contrasts Hester and Dimmesdale's scarlet letters and connects them to attitudes of Puritan society

Essay by aureidenHigh School, 10th gradeA, February 2004

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The themes that often reveal themselves in The Scarlet Letter, such as Puritan society, sin, confession, human nature, and punishment, are studied by looking at two versions of a simple letter in the alphabet: A. The scarlet A on Hester's dress and a replica on Dimmesdale's chest implants a connection not only in the sense of characters, but also in the corruption of Puritan society.

Hester's punishment by itself shows the way Puritan society's mind works. They could have given her a 20 year jail sentence, or punished her with the loss of her child, yet they decided to put a token of shame on her to carry around with her for as long as she lives. It might be nice of them to let her live and walk around freely, but what they are really doing is condemning her into a life of penitence which causes her grief and remorse.

Hester makes a living by making clothing for people from the government and church all the way down to the paupers and the deceased, "but it is not recorded that, in a single instance, her skill was called in aid to embroider the white veil which was to cover the pure blushes of a bride." This exception indicates the relentless force with which society looked down upon her sin. Then, Governor Bellingham attempts to take Pearl away from her "sinful" mother's hands and set her into a proper education under Providence. This shows the arrogance, and false assumptions that society has about Hester--the idea that she is not a suitable mother because she is an adulterer.

Dimmesdale is not chased down by society--he presses himself with the weight of its perverseness and assumptions. Chillingworth torments Dimmesdale and when he finds out that Dimmesdale is Hester's "partner-in-crime," he...