The Puritan Way: Oppressive Laws Followed to the Tee. Why?
Hester Prynne is the epitome of what citizens of The Scarlet Letter’s Puritan society wanted to avoid by following laws, even if they are oppressive and restricting of free will. Rather than being sentenced to death she was sentenced to a dead life; she lost everything except for her personal values and Pearl (which was a curse in itself). Puritan society came down hard on lawbreakers and held to strict traditions set on the interpretations of the bible by the Magistrates. Some may argue that Hester was “let off the hook” because, in Puritanical law, anyone who committed adultery would have been put to death (The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts…pg.8). Either way, members of the society in The Scarlet Letter vehemently followed laws that may have impeded on their free will out of the fear of punishment, loss of status socially and spiritually, and in order to preserve tradition.
Mainly, Puritans obeyed oppressive laws because, like most people, they wanted to avoid punishment, especially in Puritan society because most of those punishments consisted of death. People in Hester Prynne’s society were scared for their lives and some couldn’t even trust their families not to turn them in for an offence. Even though Hester isn’t put to death she is put in prison for a time and comes out of it almost broken. Many wouldn’t want to ever feel the sensation of the
“sunshine, which, falling on all alike, seemed to [his or her] sick and morbid heart, as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on [his or her] breast.” (p.74) It would feel as though the whole world had turned against them because even a symbol like the sun, usually meant to represent good and happy things, is just there to reveal his or her shame to the world. This feeling was what Puritans wanted to avoid also because it would remove any...