Essay on Adultery Explored in The Scarlet Letter

1108 Words 5 Pages
That Nathaniel Hawthorne to chose such a controversial topic as adultery for The Scarlet Letter, his nineteenth century novel of "seventeenth century sexual repression and hypocrisy" (Zabarenko PG), demonstrates a delicate yet changing climate with regard to infidelity.
Historically, carrying on an adulterous affair back in such an era of Puritanism and traditional values was not taken lightly; in fact, by today's standards, such horrific treatment for what is now considered an everyday occurrence was more harsh than murders suffer by current standards.
Those who acted out of the vows of matrimony centuries ago, as Hester Prynne did in The Scarlet Letter, paid a high price for their momentary pleasures of the flesh. In those days, the
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In truth, they had little patience for much display of immorality at all, which ultimately became misinterpreted as a complete and total abhorrence to sexuality of any kind. This was not true, however, yet their strict moral code did not bode well with outsiders, making them appear ultra conservative.
What is clear within the context of historical consideration is the emphasis placed upon judgement. To determine what is right for one yet not for another; to cast one's opinion over the entire populace as a painter might broadly stroke a blank canvass; to conclude that a person is wrong by the very act he commits behind closed doors, is to be harshly and unfairly judgmental.
Small town mentality is wracked with judgement. There is no escaping its suffocating presence. Historically, communities were one entity where the private business of everyone was worn much like the Scarlet Letter itself: out in the open for everyone to know.
There was no sense of privacy within a world of snoops and busy-bodies. Had there been even the slightest reprieve from such intrusions upon one's intimacy, it very well may be that Prynne's shameful act of adultery would have been judged by the one entity permitted to draw such a conclusion: God.

One of the most saddening aspects of The Scarlet Letter is its historically paralyzing approach when dealing with Prynne's extramarital affair. It was clear that she and Dimmesdale were in
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