Last Updated 09 Apr 2020

The Badge of Shame

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“Woman, it is thy badge of shame! ”. Governor Bellingham was describing the scarlet letter to Hester while they were discussing if the punishments that Hester had to go through were adequate enough for the crime. Hester was living in the outskirts of the city in a small abandoned cottage for several years with the only thing that had any monetary value in her life, her child and the product of committing adultery, Pearl. She and her little Pearl were shunned from the community for her acts.

In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester is punished in more than one way, and she is able to deal with it openly so the community will, over time, forgive her. The most obvious subject of punishment that Hester had to cope with is wearing the scarlet letter. “By the point which drew all eyes and, as it were, transfigured the wearer... was the scarlet letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom”. Hester wrought the scarlet letter before she stood on the scaffold. When Pearl asks her why she wears the letter she replies that she wears it for its gold thread.

Hester wears the letter for many years, even after the people in the community care anymore, so that she will be fully forgiven for her sin. In the beginning of the story, Hester is faced with serving the temporary part of her sentence, standing on the scaffold in front of the whole town. “It was a circumstance to be noted, on the summer morning when our story begins its course, that the women of whom there were several in the crowd, appeared to take a peculiar interest in whatever penal infliction might be expected to ensue”.

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The citizens of the town had gathered to criticize Hester as she stood on the scaffold, and many of the town s women were discussing the simplicity of Hester s sentence, since the usual punishment for committing adultery is the death penalty. Although she had to put up with the remarks about her for three hours while she was standing on the scaffold, the ridicule followed for many years to come. Hester and her daughter were thought upon as sinners long after Hester had served her sentence. Hester was not accepted by the community because of her sins.

She was forced to live in an abandoned cottage on the edge of the city. “Hester Prynne, therefore, did not flee. On the outskirts of town, within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation, there was a small thatched cottage. It had been built by an earlier settler, and abandoned because the soil about it was too sterile for cultivation.. .”. Hester and her little Pearl not only lived in the little cottage, they spent most of their time there, only going into town for important things like food and supplies.

The community basically shunned Hester and Pearl from the town and made it clear to them that they were not wanted inside the city. Hester went through a lot of punishment for her sins. She was able to deal with it openly, like wearing the scarlet letter and standing on the scaffold, and some she dealt with without showing any remorse. She was brave to live on the edge of the city and not to flee to another city or even another country. She also kept things inside, like the father of her child and her husband that seemingly deserted her. Overall, she is a brave soul and in some ways, is a role model to the rest of the people in the community.

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The Badge of Shame. (2018, May 16). Retrieved from

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