In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, he reveals the life and hypocrisy of the Puritan communities in the past. He implies that back then in that stubborn society, many people were wrongfully sentenced for sins of all types. Dimmesdale and Hester show how easily it is for others to label you based on the mistakes you have made. He objects Puritanism as it punishes, forcing them to endure extreme and irrelevant suffering. Hawthorne uses stereotyped characters to shed the identity society has given Hester, which he achieves through characters who function to teach the importance of identity, the challenge of unbiased judgement, and the improper response to antagonism.
Throughout the novel it shows that if someone wants to fit in and be accepted by the community and they must abide by the laws. Those who do their own thing and say how they feel about certain situations will face severe consequences due to the stubbornness of the government. Arthur Dimmesdale’s predetermined idea is the one everyone looks up to. He was expected to act as an example. After committing adultery with Hester, he is the true father of Pearl. He was overwhelmed with his dark secret and self denial.
As for Hester, she learned that she could not hide from her true identity. Hester’s “A” marking is her predetermined title of an adultress. After she was released from jail, she decided to run away to another country. She had to accept the fact that removing the emblem would do nothing because “it was too deeply branded” (60). She then acknowledged it as a part of her life and identity. She wore the letter with no sense of shame. Hester’s compassion and eagerness to help overrode the meaning behind the scarlet letter. Hester changed the purpose of the emblem into a positive, comforting mark.
In chapter 17, Hester still had hope. She believed that the emblem could be removed from her image. Her and Dimmesdale forgave one another and planned to run away to Europe. After unfastening the badge and throwing it in the river she was restored. She was back was back to her traditional, formal beauty. Pearl then returned to remind Hester that her identity can never be removed. She has to learn the lesson that stereotypes will always be and they cannot just be thrown away.
The citizens of the Puritan community also have to face being prejudged. They are limited by their surroundings and laws. Puritans in the community had no choice but to agree with whatever the counsel determines. The same thing occurs when it comes to the priests. They could not voice their opinions or comments. Everyone acted as if they were programmed robots. Whoever “malfunctioned” or disobeyed would be punished. This type of setting gives the reader a sense of darkness.
Our identity is who we are. What others label you as could, without a doubt affect your reputation. We cannot completely change who we are deep down inside. Our image can never be forgotten because it is linked to what we did with our time here. Every sin we commit, failure we experience, and our past take a toll on who we are and why we are the way we are. All we can do is learn to accept one another for themselves. When we lose what defines us, we are losing who we are. Hester’s scarlet letter defined who she was. It shows what she had been through. Everybody have made a few mistakes. Her mistakes were put on blast and she was antagonized for what she has done while others suffered in silence. They did not know the story behind her scarlet letter, they judged her, Hester still continued to live her life, she just had to own it.