The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a tale set around the lives Puritan people, and how a women branded by them learns to live with their hypocrisy. The story strikes many points about Hester’s inner struggles, her relationship with her daughter Pearl, and how to except herself, but one of the greater focuses does not lie within her, but with the Puritans themselves. What I speak of is how Hawthorne criticizes the Puritan people on their hypocrisy. Specifically, by use of the Scarlet Letter.
Throughout the book there are many instances were Hawthorne shows the Puritans hypocrisy with the Scarlet Letter, which shows how intense his loathing is for them. May it be Hester’s letter, Dimmesdale’s, or Pearls letter, Hawthorne finds a way to relate them. More than anyone, the people that criticize the letter the most is not Chillingworth, nor even Hester, but the towns people. Because the town is completely Puritan one would think they would be somewhat forgiving. Despite this though, they show there hypocriticalness through many chapters in the book, even as early as the second chapter.
In the market place scene one can immediately see the extreme despise of the Puritans towards Hester’s letter. “as for the red letter which she hath stitched so curiously, I’ll bestow a rag of mine own rheumatic flannel, to make a fitter one!” Spoken by an old dame, this is only one of many negative comments made by some of the Puritans. Yet as expected, these Puritans eventually become hypocrites to these words. This is seen when these same people eventually hire Hester for the sewing skills seen in the letter. Despite the fact that they believe a flannel would be better than her’s. It’s clear to see the Puritans have betrayed their original feelings about the look of the letter, but in due time they also show their hypocriticalness in what they believe the letter to stand for.
As many know the shape of the Scarlet Letter was a letter “A”, and that the original meaning was to mean adultery. This was true throughout many chapters of the book, and became evident by how the Puritans treated Hester. Once again, even from the start of the book. In the first chapter all the towns people wait for Hester to come out from the huge iron doors. And even though they have yet no clue as to who or why someone is behind that door, the presence of hatred for whatever is behind the door is apparent. When they finally do see that Hester is the culprit, and wearing the Scarlet Letter, they proceed to badger her along with everyone else, and even the guard shows a sign of hatred.
Once again though, the Puritans eventually go back on these feelings, like they never even had them in the first place. By chapter thirteen Hester is seen no longer by the Puritans as a sinner, but almost as a holy figure. “How’s that?” Well, by this time Hester has done numerous deeds for the rich and the poor, and due to this fact the letter has almost taken a different shape. Specifically, in the shape of a cross. At one point the letter is referred to as have a completely different meaning. ” I wonder how could somone, let alone a whole town, view something as adultery and then eventually clam it stands for able? It’s easy to see that the Puritans need to think before they speak. First they go back on what they think of the letters appearance, and then they go back on what they think the letter as a whole stands for. Well unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the towns peoples hypocriticalness.
So far everything has referred to the Scarlet Letter worn by Hester, but as I said in the beginning the evidence does not only lie within her letter. This time it refers to the letter “worn” by Dimmesdale.