The Scarlet Letter

Mar 25, 2011 by

The Scarlet Letter

Written for an American Literature assignment.

“Hester” by David Coonradt.

     The Scarlet Letter is biased in Boston in 1642, twenty-two years after the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock.  I have always had great respect for the Pilgrims, and their puritan way of life.  Because of this, I am concerned by stories, such as The Scarlet Letter, which hold these people in a negative light.  Though I am not authoritative on early American history, I must conclude that something happened during those twenty years to the puritan people.  Granted, many people settled in the area during this time, but the Scarlet Letter specifically refers to those with a very “puritanical” image.  Whether the pilgrims were like those described in this book, or that this is a case of historical twisting by Hawthorne, I do not know.   In any case, the people in the Boston of The Scarlet Letter certainly do not reflect biblical, new-covenant principals for dealing the sin.

     We learn that the people of Boston treated sin in very legalistic, pharisaic way.  Many parallels can be draw between The Scarlet Letter, and the adulterous woman found in John 8.  “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.” (John 8:3a).  In the Scarlet Letter, the people bring Hester Prynne, the adulterous woman, out on a public scaffold for public shaming.  This is similar to the insensitivity of the Pharisees.  “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do You say?”  Some could say that the puritans were following biblical commands for punishment of adultery.  But, the second half of the verse is the key: “But, what do Yousay?”  “He” – Jesus, the ultimate lawgiver, says, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  This is the crux.  The people of Boston were very quick to judge Hester, especially the elected officials.  We are told repeatedly that the sister of Boston’s governor is a witch (an un-proclaimed one in any case).  Why wasn’t she judged under the same stringent standard?  This is just one example of hypocrisy.     

    The officials of Boston refrain from giving Hester the death penalty.  Instead, they force her to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her breast for the rest of her life.  What did Jesus say in John?  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more”.  Jesus had dispersed the Pharisees, and was left alone with the adulterous woman.  He could have scorned and pronounced judgment upon her.  Did he do that?  No.  When we sin, we repent before God, and when appropriate, before man.  We take responsibility for the consequences.  Then we “go, and sin no more”.  We leave the sin behind us, under the blood of the lamb, and move on. 

     Undoubtedly, the sin of adultery is taken far too lightly in modern society, and many of its historical consequences have been negated, leading to more sin.  In any case, God is a forgiving God, who offers the blood of His Son to wash away our sin, leaving us to live free in Christ.  If only those in The Scarlet Letter really understood that.

David Coonradt 3/4/11.

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