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NATIONAL MORALITY IN HAWTHORNES THE SCARLET LETTER Since the beginning of time man has gathered himself in communities in order to better facilitate the needs and interests of individuals As institutions developed to govern these communities the idea of a collective good emerged Central to the idea of a collective good is the responsibility of the community in forming a sense of national morality Should this morality come from the government or religion Perhaps individuals should take responsibility to constitute a morality for themselves Nathaniel Hawthorne addresses the question of national morality in his work The Scarlet Letter Through a careful examination of the central characters of the work and an understanding of the underlying ideas of Hawthorne a view on national morality emerges Hawthorne criticizes the fundamentalist Puritan characters particularly Dimmesdale by showing their hypocrisy and displaying the failures of Puritans and their form of a national morality The treatment of the outcast Hester Ledbetter-2 reveals Hawthornes desire to form a national morality founded on individual accountability and Transcendentalist beliefs Before disclosing his notions and beliefs on national morality Hawthorne begins his story The Scarlet Letter with a discussion of the Puritan state of Salem set in the 1600s It is often problematic to discern Hawthornes views about Puritanism due to his ambiguity He reveres the Puritan conviction and their ability to conform to the controls of their faith Gerber 34 However he condemns them for the bigotry and utter intolerance they show for opposing viewpoints and perspectives Leavitt 88 This ambiguity causes the reader to question Hawthornes attitudes and tone throughout the course of the work No where in The Scarlet Letter does Hawthorne criticize in particular the doctrines of the Puritan religion Hawthorne only discusses the Puritanical beliefs such as predestination and the Doctrine of the Elect in the context of his narrative In fact Nathaniel Ledbetter-3 Hawthorne himself was a second generation Puritan Hawthornes grandfather was a prominent
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