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Defending Hester Prynne Then and NowWhen deciding between prosecuting or defending the character of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthornes novel The Scarlet Letter it would be well to keep in mind the words of Alexander Pope To err is human to forgive divine The sin of adultery in itself is not the question here but the degree of punishment for that sin is As Hawthorne intended his readers to do this paper chooses to defend Hester PrynneThe Puritanical society of Salem Massachusetts in the 17th century was severe and gloomy Though these people acknowledged on the surface that all mankind was born in sin they relied more heavily upon the belief that living righteously earned their salvation They did not disqualify the notion of grace but they believed that true salvation was proven only by strict adherence to Biblical laws As mankind is prone to make mistakes and sin these high standards were a heavy and impossible burden Hypocrisy was common but these people blinded themselves to it and their own humanity What showed or what was obvious was what was judged A black heart could clothe itself in good deeds and remain undetected However kinder souls who were oblivious to rules could blunder helplessly into traps Suspicion and condemnation masked guilt and jealousy It was common for truly good people to be scorned as heretics or even burned to the stake as witches Hester Prynne was publicly humiliated for her adultery in front of her small-town community As though this werent enough of a punishment she was made to wear a sign an embroidered A upon her chest for the rest of her life The laws of her society severely punished crimes of human passion to deter future offenses as well as to reassure and comfort those who outwardly conformed to the unbending structure of those lawsIt is important to note that Hester was emotionally stable and strong-willed Throughout her ordeal her strength was
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