Examine critically Hawthorne’s puritanic attitude in The scarlet letter

Question: Examine critically Hawthornes puritanic attitude in The scarlet letter.


“The Scarlet Letter” (1850) is a criticism of Puritan society. In this novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) has criticized the Puritanism of the seventeen century in America. The novel “The Scarlet Letter” has designed the writer as a critic. In this novel, he has been criticized for the stern, stereotypical and hypocritical attitudes of the Puritan society. The dogma of Puritan society towards the sinner and the poor has been extremely criticized by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The sternness of the Puritans

The protagonist of the novel Hester has been the victim of the Puritans. The novel The Scarlet Letter is strong evidence of the sternness of Puritanism based on the social structure of Boston. According to the society of Boston, the heroine of the novel is a great sinner so they can not show any sympathy towards Hester even her only three-month-old infant Pearl. She has to compel to wear the scarlet letter A as a symbol of her adultery. According to the law of the Puritan church, she has been imprisoned for seven years. Yet her imprisonment had not filled up after seven years. So she has been ostracized by the Puritan society. So it is vivid that the puritan society has shown their harshness towards Hester.

“Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl!” whispered her mother. “We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”

Conservative view of the Puritan

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter” focuses on the narrow mentality of the Puritan society. The puritan society has been formed based on the law of the Bible where forgiveness is the fundamental law for humanity. But Hester is not getting free from the harsh cruelty of the puritan society. Rather she has been an outcast from society. But at the grace of God, she has been able to overcome all her shortcomings. Such type notion of Puritan society has been criticized by the novel “The Scarlet Letter”.

“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself because it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . .

The baseless dogma of Puritanism

The Puritans are one of the most devoted groups of Bible scholars, but they are forgetting one of the famous quotes of Jesus, “He that is without sin among you, let him first a stone at her” this same thing happens to Hester. The punishment received by Hester in the novel was based upon the puritan religious, social, and governmental beliefs, structured into a single ideology which was formed their English experience and proper commitment to religion. These things proved that the emptiness of the puritan dogma.

Charlatanism or Pretension of the Puritan

Hawthorne’s point of view, the novel “The Scarlet Letter” is a fine embodiment of Puritans charlatanism. The character Mistress Hibbins and Black man are the representation of the hypocrisy of the Puritan community. Mistress Hibbins is a widow and she is mainly known to be a witch who ventures into the forest at night to ride with the Black man. Her publicly appearance reminds to the reader of the hypocrisy of the puritan society.

Stereotype attitude of the Puritan

To follow the dogma of the Bible in which it is mentioned that forgiveness is the fundamental law of Christianity but if we are gone through the novel we got that the puritan church has made their society with a strong and more complicated law of Puritanism. There is no base in the law of pure or true Christianity. In the novel, Hester has silently endured all the stereotypical rules of the puritan church.

“The scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too”.

More: Notes from The Scarlet Letter


In the light of the above discussion we may terminate that Nathaniel Hawthorne has critically represented the hollowness of the puritan society in his ever-green fictional romantic tragedy “The Scarlet Letter”

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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