Actions and Consequences
Every action has a consequence or punishment. From the youngest child to the eldest adult, every person should be held accountable for the actions they take. A parent will punish a child for wrongdoing to teach the child the family’s or the society’s morals. The court system will punish an adult for criminal activities in order to protect the society. Through historical periods in time the types of punishments received for different criminal acts have changed a great deal. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter gives us a view of the type of punishment handed down in the Romantic Period compared to what we would see today.
The church and government enforces the first type of punishment, which is public humiliation. An example of this is when Hester Prynne commits the sin of adultery. She wouldn’t reveal her partner so she is forced to stand on a scaffold for the public display. (Hawthorne 48) Hester stands on the scaffolding and is questioned publicly by Reverend John Wilson about who her partner was but Hester refuses to yield to the pressure. Another expression of this is that Hester has to bear the scarlet A for the remainder of her life. This example shows the Romantic trait of sympathy for the downtrodden, because the young wife, saying, “let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart,” felt sorrow for Hester at the beginning of the book. (Hawthorne 49) The young wife felt bad for Hester; therefore, defending Hester to the other women of the town. The punishments delivered to Hester are much different than what you would see today. In today’s society adultery would be frowned upon but would go virtually unpunished. Hester’s two punishments, bearing the scarlet A and being questioned publicly while on the scaffolding were both sanctioned by the church and government.
The second type of punishment is self-inflicted punishment. This is shown by the minister, Mr. Dimmesdale, when he...