Have you ever thought of how children’s minds develop and how it impacts their behavior as they mature? According to recent studies, “The development of children's emotion-related self-regulation appears to be related to, and likely involved in, many aspects of children's development” as stated by Eggum Nd. In the Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne contrasts the cruel children of the town with Pearl’s honest nature to show the impact on environment on morality illustrated by the town’s children’s accusations towards Hester and Pearl, speaking without thinking, and being taught not to lie under any circumstances to create a moral nature.
In order to depict how the town’s children’s accusations affect Hester and Pearl, Nathanial Hawthorne writes about the relationship between Hester and Pearl to depict the similar relationship he had with his own children rather than on Puritan models. Child rearing was growing in popularity in his own time and there was a dictatorial method of handling children in the 1600s which had a major impact on his growth as a child and later, we see how he was affected through his method of writing. Pearl was not meant to be a realistic character in the novel, in fact, she is a symbol of passion and love that was also adultery, a sin in which her mother committed. While growing up, Pearl has no friends except her mother, because they are outsiders and seen as different people. They are shunned from the community except for the work that Hester does on the scaffold. Due to this, Pearl never has any real friends except her mother. Hester remains patient and gentle with dealing with Pearl and as the result, she is the well-adjusted woman Pearl turns out to be. As stated in The Scarlet Letter, “Fear of public exposure and community disapproval made public shaming punishments extremely effective because it deterred crime and controlled deviant behavior. (pg. 33) This quote is significant since it clearly restates that Pearl and her mother were isolated in the community. Townspeople would see the results of others’ actions and their consequences so thus, crime lessened along with deviant behavior. “However, these punishments were only successful because of ‘the community's familiarity with the offender and his recognized membership to the community’; (pg. 34) if a wrongdoer did not have a connection with the community, public shaming sanctions would most likely not affect that criminal's behavior”. (Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart: Library Resources) As previously mentioned, the consequences of a wrongdoer’s actions with a familiar crowd observing you as you are being punished resulted in a decrease in misbehavior with an exception if you were not communal with the people watching you as you are being publicly shamed. Since you do not have a personal connection with them, it will most likely not change your behavior since the shaming wasn’t that big of a consequence to you. In addition, Hester can present herself as a composed character who can hide her emotions and the effects that the accusations and public shaming have on her as on the inside, she is the complete opposite and feels as if she must remove herself from the scaffold. We have proof of this in the novel when it states: “Hester feels ‘at moments, as if she must shriek out with the full power of her lungs and cast herself from the scaffold from upon the ground, or else go mad at once’”. (pg. 118). In a way, Hester is the “mold” in which Pearl will shape herself as a well-adjusted woman later on in her lifetime.
Pearl’s unwilling relationship with Reverend Dimmesdale shows that Self-regulatory capacities have been related to both genetic and environmental factors and their interaction. Some interventions designed to foster self-regulation and, hence, reduce maladjustment, have proved to be at least partially effective. Hester noticed the isolation occurring in society with Pearl and townspeople due to her actions. In addition, Pearl and Dimmesdale so with Hester’s intervention, you notice the change in Pearl’s attitude. As Stephanie Watson states, “Children develop the ability to control what they say — called “response inhibition” — as they pick up language and other skills throughout childhood. Their inhibition skills continue to evolve as they get older, but not every child develops a working filter at the same pace.” Along the way, some kids seem to have delays in their development of this executive skill, and they constantly fail to stop and think before they act. (Monte Davenport PhD)”
Teaching children to distinguish between right and wrong is a major focus of socialization, and as part of this process, children are taught that truth-telling is good and lie-telling is bad is a way that Hawthorne depicts that children are taught from a young age not to lie under any circumstances to create a moral nature. One important challenge occurs when truth-telling comes into conflict with other values such as avoiding harm to others. Children’s reasoning about whether lying is ever acceptable can be viewed within a general framework of moral development, given that honesty is an important topic in discussions about morality. Research examining children’s moral reasoning has focused on the tendency to make distinctions between different types of rules and different social contexts. Children’s tendency to apply context-specific reasoning to social situations extends to judgments about lying and truth-telling. [Perkins and Turiel (2007)]. More recently, research examining children’s moral reasoning has focused on the tendency to make distinctions between different types of rules and different social contexts (Smetana, 1985; Smetana, 2006). This research provides strong evidence that across a range of ages, children tend to differentiate between moral reasoning (which involves issues of welfare, justice, and rights) and other kinds of social reasoning. Children and adolescents also make distinctions between reasoning about the moral and social conventional domains and the personal domain, which involves actions that are of importance primarily to the individual who engages in them. Hester was the one that engaged in the activity of adultery and furthermore, led to the issues that Pearl had to deal with even though it was not her fault. Children’s tendency to apply context-specific reasoning to social situations extends to judgments about lying and truth-telling. [Perkins and Turiel (2007)] found that although adolescents judged lying to be wrong ‘in general’ and perceived lying to cover up misdeeds to be clearly wrong, they judged lie-telling as acceptable under a number of circumstances. Other research suggests that younger children, like older children, do not view all lies as reprehensible and make distinctions among different types of lies. There are a number of reasons to investigate how children reason about lie-telling and truth-telling in politeness contexts. Firstly, it speaks to debates within linguistics and philosophy concerning the acceptability of lie-telling when motives are prosocial (see Bok, 1978). Children and adolescents also make distinctions between reasoning about the moral and social conventional domains and the personal domain, which involves actions that are of importance primarily to the individual who engages in them (Nucci, 1981, 2001; see Turiel, 2002)
In conclusion, The Scarlet Letter is a novel written in the 1800s during the Puritan times about Hester Prynne, the main character, who is an adulteress and had Pearl, her child, as a result. In my research paper, I want to address the psychological growth of children and the result of their actions and accusations towards Hester and Pearl in the novel. The Puritan religion had much of an impact on the children as well as over hearing what people in society say and repeat it themselves.
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