Literary Analysis of the Scarlet Letter
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It seems everyone has been judged by others to be something they aren’t. Hester Prynne, however, has a much more extreme case. In “The Market Place” in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novel begins with a barrage of judgments from the town’s people, especially women. This early chapter adds much significance to the novel as a whole, by displaying Hester’s humanity, and immediately portraying her as a victim.
In a society where law and religious values are one in the same, it is not surprising that her Puritanical peers bombard Hester as she faces her punishment on the scaffold. Hawthorne did this to show how religion doesn’t always bring out the best in its followers. The general understanding of religion is that God loves everyone and everyone should love each other; and wouldn’t it be most logical to love someone in a time when they have strayed from the path of righteousness? Comments spat at Hester such as “‘this woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die’” (45) do not display the loving religious values that are incorporated in many religious teachings today. This just begins to portray her as a victim. Examples such as this reveal the irony used by Hawthorne. Throughout the novel the mood seems to revert back to this first hateful incident that goes against many religious values. This kind of irony is continually displayed throughout the novel, showing how judgmental the public is. It sets up the rest of the story, showing how she manages to continue being kind even to the most hurtful of people. Many themes of this novel heavily rely on this trait of Hester’s.
Much of this chapter also focuses on humanizing Hester. An ideal example of her emotions experienced at first is that “… she felt at moments, as if she must needs shriek out… or else go mad at once.” (50) Contrasted with women saying “‘at the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.’” (45), Hester is framed...