The Advantages of Public Shame in the Scarlet Letter Essay

788 Words4 Pages
Benjamin Lewis
American Lit/AP Comp & Lit
2 December 2010
The Advantages of Public Shame in The Scarlet Letter Imagine a world in which everyone believes it is in their best interest to suppress their feelings. Most people in the modern world would undoubtedly find this prospect awful and depressing. After all, our phenomenon of instantaneous communication was conceived with the belief that humans desperately want and need to share their emotions and ideas. The widespread popularity of Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking websites seem to affirm this assumption. If one was to compare the Puritan setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter with this hypothetical world, they would soon realize the two
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Dimmesdale is virtually bound for ruin. Hester Prynne’s ability to sustain her stability and strength of spirit is the express result of her public guilt and penance. She was Arthur Dimmesdale’s partner in adultery, but she is used by Hawthorne as a complete foil to his situation. Unlike Dimmesdale, Hester is both strong and honest. Walking out of prison at the beginning of the novel, she decides that she must “sustain and carry” her burden forward “by the ordinary resources of her nature, or sink with it. She could no longer borrow from the future to help her through the present grief” (54). Hester openly acknowledges her sin to the public, and always wears her scarlet letter A. In the forest scene, she explains to Dimmesdale that she has been truthful in all things except in revealing his part in her pregnancy. “A lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side” (133). Even Dimmesdale himself realizes that Hester’s situation is much healthier than his own when he states, “It must needs be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is, than to cover it all up in his heart” (92-93). This life of public shame and repentance, although bitter, lonely, and difficult, helps Hester retain her true identity while Dimmesdale seems to be losing his. The final scaffold scene, in which Dimmesdale
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