The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel that exhibits a typical illustration of the human variance between sentiments and intellect. It also provides a typical illustration of the difference between publicly shaming someone and letting him to go through the penalty of an unfair act in private.
In accordance with the lawful structures of the time and the established responses that followed stringent Biblical understanding, adultery was actually a capital sin that necessitated the death of both the adulterer and the adulteress. At the very least, both would be required to go through a public corporal punishment. As a matter of fact, in as much as the husband would have wanted to forgive his wife after committing adultery, the law still demanded that she would have to die for it.
It is in this kind of setting that Dimmesdale commits adultery with Hester. However, it is evident that public shaming is not able to account for all the intricacies of the illegitimate affair. In essence, what the author intends to portray is how private torment and guiltiness coupled with emotional obliteration of people involved in illicit affairs is a better form of punishment for such crimes. It therefore becomes questionable as to whether the society or the state has the authority to compel the law on confidential or personal matters between the citizenry.
The novel also prompts the question as to whether adultery has a particular impact on the lives of others. If it does not, then it is evident that such a crime should not be seen as a crime against the entire society. This is further asserted by a benevolent reading of the Bible that articulates the interpretation of the New Testament in so far as the issue of adultery is concerned. As a result, it becomes evident that the public does not need to step in to punish a crime when individuals have their own sins to be judged. After all, every individual suffers enough for his or her own sins.
- Hawthorne, N. (2008). The Scarlet Letter. New York: Arc Manor LLC.