Public vs Private Penance in the Scarlet Letter and the Crucible

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Public versus private penance for a sin has been a huge controversial subject in society throughout time. Many articles, novels, and plays have been written to discuss this subject. Also, different religions such as Puritanism have relayed other ideas on penance. In the novels The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter written by Arthur Miller and Nathaniel Hawthorne, both authors express the opinion that penance should be public as opposed to private. The Crucible, set during the Salem Witch Trials, is about how young girls could persuade an entire puritanical society to believe that there are witches. Throughout the plot of the story, John Proctor is an important character. While he dismisses the fact that there are witches, it is revealed that Proctor had an affair with Abigail, the first accuser. Throughout the beginning and middle of the story, Proctor pays his penance privately and no one knows what he did. When he tries to confess to the court about his sin to prove that he would not lie about the witches, the court puts him in jail for lying ironically. Before his hanging, he has a conversation with Elizabeth, his wife, stating, “I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud… It is pretense for me, a vanity that will not blind God nor keep my children out of the wind. What say you?” (Arthur 136) John was considering saying that he had see witch craft to keep his life. When they asked him to sign his name to the confession he said, “ Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another name in my life...leave me my name!” (Arthur 143) he finally decides to pay his penance rather than lie, commit another sin, and give up his name. Arthur Miller uses John Proctor’s character to reveal that penance for sin should be done publicly. The Scarlet Letter, set in America during the 16th century, was about a woman named Hester Prynne who had a baby out of

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