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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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PURITANISM IN THE NOVEL

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is set in the seventeenth century New England town of Boston, a staunch Puritanical town. It is a moralistic and gloomy place where the citizens dress in drab colors and lack any liveliness. Even on the Election Day holiday, they cannot relax and enjoy themselves. The Puritans easily find fault in the weaknesses of others, as evidenced by the fact that they gather at the scaffold to witness Hester's public humiliation. They also feel that her sentence is much too lenient. They punish her further by making both Hester and Pearl social outcasts. They avoid interaction with either of them and often cast suspicious looks and insulting comments in their direction.


Hester's sin, shame, and guilt are clearly heightened by the fact that she lives in a strict Puritanical society, which is unable and unwilling to forgive her sin. The irony of the novel lies in the fact that the most respected member of this Puritanical society, the Reverend Dimmesdale, is Hester's partner in sin.

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