Ignominy in the Puritan Community Essay The title of Nathaniel Hawthorneâ€™s The Scarlet Letter refers to the literal symbol of ignominy that Hester Prynneâ€™s community forces her to wear as a reminder of her sin. Though the word â€œignominyâ€ is used in sympathetic passages that describe Hester Prynneâ€™s disgrace as an adulteress and out-of-wedlock mother, its use at the same time reveals an extremely critical description of Hesterâ€™s community; Hawthorne finds that what is truly disgraceful is the way the community relishes and exploits the opportunity to punish one of its members. Through powerful diction and imagery describing Hesterâ€™s sin and through saintly representations of Hesterâ€™s beauty and wholeness, Hawthorne reveals his sympathy toward Hester. The narrator commiserates with Hester when the reader first encounters her walking to her daily public shaming upon the marketplaceâ€™s scaffold. He writes, â€œher beauty shone out and made a halo of misfortune and ignominy in which she was envelopedâ€ (50). The word â€œhaloâ€ suggests an angelic, even saintly quality, compared to the sin for which she is being publicly disgraced as punishment, making her circumstance more complex than simply one of punished sin. That she is â€œenvelopedâ€ by disgrace implies that her shame derives more from her surroundings than from her sin; Hawthorneâ€™s use of â€œmisfortuneâ€ also demonstrates the narratorâ€™s sympathy toward Hester, again suggesting that her disgrace comes as much from the communityâ€™s display of her sin as from the sin itself. Hawthorne portrays Hester sympathetically yet again in her encounter with Chillingworth in the prison. The disguised physician declares Hester to be â€œa statue of ignominy, before the peopleâ€ (68). Ironically, Chillingworth, in the role of a healer, here admonishes rather than helps Hester. His words, intended to threaten and punish Hester, in fact, spark sympathy for her in the reader. Similarly, later in the novel, while Hester and Dimmesdale talk in the forest, briefly away from the opprobrium of the Puritan community, Hawthorne describes how â€œHester Prynne must take up again the burden of her ignominyâ€ (170), on her return â€œto the settlement.â€ The use of the words â€œmustâ€ and â€œagainâ€ reveal Hesterâ€™s continual forced obligation to wear and be a symbol of shame in her community, and show again the narratorâ€™s sympathy toward her. The fact that she is â€œburden[ed]â€ by disgrace illustrates the extreme weight of her painful, shunned experience, thus establishing the cause for the narratorâ€™s sympathy for Hester. As Hawthorne shows empathy regarding Hester as she leaves the prison, he also condemns the harsh experience inflicted on her by the community, â€œThe very law that condemned herâ€¦had held her up, through the terrible ordeal of her ignominyâ€ (71). The words â€œterrible ordealâ€ not only reinforce the narratorâ€™s sympathy toward the protagonist, but also suggest that the narrator is judging the community, not Hester. By revealing the communityâ€™s enjoyment and cruelty in punishing Hester, Hawthorne criticizes the Puritanâ€™s ideas of justice and mercy through both assertive diction and direct communication with the reader. When â€œA crowd of eager and curious schoolboysâ€ stare â€œat the ignominious letter on her breastâ€ (52), the reader sees the â€œeagerâ€ pleasure and excitement witnesses experience from Hesterâ€™s circumstance. Here Hesterâ€™s disgrace has become both an entertainment and an educational device. The narrator continues with, â€œshe perchance underwent an agonyâ€¦as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample uponâ€ (52). With this description, Hesterâ€™s humanity is maintained, even when the community, â€œallâ€ of it, objectifies her as a teaching tool. The image of her heart â€œflungâ€, â€œspurn[ed] and trample[d] uponâ€ demonstrates both the narratorâ€™s sympathy toward Hester and animosity toward Puritan society, regardless of the age of the member. Shortly after his description of the schoolboyâ€™s callous treatment of Hester, the narrator continues with a harsh account of the scaffold and pillory once employed upon it, â€œthat instrument of disciplineâ€ that represented â€œthe very ideal of ignominyâ€ (52). The pillory reflects the nature of the communityâ€™s sense of justice, and the narrator finds it extremely harsh. The word â€œideal,â€ often associated with perfection, suggests that the pillory signifies the ultimate desired effect of â€œignominy:â€ public shame from which the sinner cannot turn away. Next, it would seem that Hawthorne speaks out directly and emotionally to the reader, declaring, â€œThere can be no outrage, methinks, against our common nature, whatever be the delinquencies of the individual, no outrage more flagrant than to forbid the culprit to hide his face for shameâ€ (52). Hawthornâ€™s use of word â€œmethinksâ€ suggests his forceful personal address on this issue of cruelty; he weighs in powerfully against the malice of the Pilgrim community that punishes Hester, even if it has not subjected her to the pillory. The word â€œnoâ€ implies Hawthorneâ€™s view that this punishment is an absolute violation of human decency on the part of any community that turns a criminal into a victim by inflicting the use of a pillory. The letter â€œAâ€ Hester must wear shows that the Puritans have depersonalized Hester as part of her punishment for committing adultery. The Puritan community is again portrayed as disgraceful when â€œJohn Wilson, the eldest clergyman of Bostonâ€ (60), steps forward above the scaffold where Hester continues to stand. He â€œhad carefully prepared himself for the occasionâ€ (63). Clearly, the words â€œcarefully preparedâ€ show Wilson relishing the public opportunity to punish Hester. He delivers to the community â€œa discourse on sin, in all its branches, but with continual reference to the ignominious letterâ€ (63). His repeated reference to the scarlet letter underscores his depersonalization of Hester in her disgrace, without any consideration of her human suffering. The word â€œignominiousâ€ reflects as much about the opportunistic clergyman and the punishing Pilgrim audience as it does about Hesterâ€™s sin. The narrator continues, â€œSo forcefully did [Wilson] dwell upon this symbol, for the hour or more during which his periods were rolling over the peopleâ€™s heads, that it assumed new terrors in their imaginationâ€ (63). The length of this sermon, and the nature of Wilsonâ€™s â€œrollingâ€ delivery show the clergymanâ€™s intention to hammer his message into the crowd and fire up its punishing judgment. Hawthorne continues to criticize the community as he places Hester historically at the site where she was first disgraced. The narrator notes, â€œIf the ministerâ€™s voice had not kept her there, there would nevertheless have been an inevitable magnetism in that spot, whence she dated the first hour of her life of ignominyâ€ (211). Implied is the idea that the power of public shaming by the community causes her to remain. Specifically, by noting that the scaffold is where â€œthe first hour of her life of ignominyâ€ began the author criticizes the community by revealing that Hester did not experience â€œignominyâ€ until being publicly disgraced on the scaffold, even though her sin had been committed many months prior. With his use of the word â€œignominy,â€ Hawthorne repeats throughout The Scarlet Letter the cruelty, judgmental attitude, and narrow-mindedness of Puritan society. He portrays Hesterâ€™s community as condemning sinners mercilessly, refusing to accept ideas that are foreign to their ways of living or thinking. In this way, the townspeople depersonalize Hester, suggesting that she and her disgrace are one. Hester is seen as her sin, not as a complex human being with complicated, still unknown, circumstances.
â€œIan had stopped rasping and ran a hand along the slatâ€™s edge, trying to gauge the curve. All his years here, he had worked with straight lines. He had deliberately stayed away from the bow-back chairs and benches that required eye judgment, personal opinion. Now he was surprised at how these two shallow U shapes satisfied his palm. (347-348) 1. Context: This passages is found towards the end of the book in chapter 10,â€Recovering from the Heart-of-Palm Fluâ€ While making a crib for his soon to be child, Ian comes across this thought. This was around the time Ian and Rita had gotten married. It show how after Ian let and tried new things in his life that made him happier. Also this made him more open-minded as a person by seeing that there are more ways than just one to do things, and not being afraid of things that are different than what he is used to. Another interpretation is that Ian has been freed from his guilt and is now allowed to experience things, get on where his life left off so long ago. This is really the resolution of the internal conflict that Ian has been going through since the climax of the book at the start. He is now guilt free and able to enjoy life. This also really effects the kids, Thomas, Agatha, and Daphne, because they felt like they had ruined his life by having to raise him, and so they still felt like they owned him. Now they can feel content know that his life is moving forward. The Bedloeâ€™s donâ€™t have to carry their burdens and are all able to carry on now. 2. Significance: This connects to the essential questions and themes of Saint Maybe. Theme #2,â€ Redemption can only be achieved through forgiveness of oneself and others,â€ This shows that Ian forgave himself because he changed his life for the better. Had he not forgave himself he would still be using â€œstraight linesâ€, or still be the same Ian who felt guilty about causing his brotherâ€™s death being cautious not using his â€œpersonal opinionâ€, and not being able to have â€œU shapesâ€ or happiness with his life. So, in a sense, by being able to create what he did show that he has feels redeem, by being able to move on and try new things. This Passage also answers Essential Question #2, â€œ Does forgiveness need to be earned or should it be given? â€ because it show how Ian had to work so hard to achieve the â€œsatisfactionâ€ of being set free from his guilt, or forgiven, for what he thought he did. Had he not tried he would have never been forgiven he would still lead a life of despair and depression and die not ever getting to enjoy his life. Another that can be answered is Essential Question #4,â€ Under certain circumstances do individuals deserve a second chance? â€Cleary Ian need a second for what had happened. Ian blamed himself at first but since he tried so hard and changed what he is used to doing just for forgiveness he is entitled to a â€œsecond chanceâ€ a chance to live again and have a good outlook on life, to grow up. 3. Literary Devices: One literary device used in this passage is tone. The tone use here is happy and uplifting. This voice the author chose, by using worse like, â€œsatisfiedâ€ and â€œsurprisedâ€, tells us he is now not the same depressed person that he once was and that he is content with where his life is now. He has stop dwelling on the past and changed for the better. Another literary device is used here is foreshadowing. It foreshadows that the rest of Ian life, and all the Bedloeâ€™s lives, will not be plague with what had happened and will live normal lives. By being able to try new things such as the â€œU shapesâ€ it shows that he has moved on and is able to try new things without the fear of making a mistake. In other words he is no longer a â€œsaint maybeâ€ and is a new man. This passage is really is symbolism for Ianâ€™s forgiveness and him being able to move on. The â€œstraight linesâ€ symbolize Ianâ€™s life before he forgave himself not able to put his own â€œâ€¦ judgment and personal opinionâ€ in things because he felt guilty for what he did to his brother and was afraid to do anything like it again because he was so traumatized. After he forgave himself he was able to do the â€œbow-back chairs and benchesâ€ because he is able to use his opinions. He is able to do so because he is now a different person, a free (forgiven) man, able to do as he pleases, not able to doubt himself anymore. So the change in his style of wood working really displays the change in his life.
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