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Essay: The Scarlet Letter: Illuminating Episode and Case Statement

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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The Scarlet letter is a historical fiction novel that was written in the year 1850. The fictional story presents redemption, guilt, and revenge in colonial America. One of the significant illuminating incidents that have been introduced in the scarlet letter and functions like as a case statement is when Hester is suspected of infidelity and sentenced to wear the scarlet A on her chest. This is found in the fourth episode of the scarlet letter. This incident opens the whole work to the readers for their understanding.

Illuminating episode (Episode Four)

In this episode of the Scarlet Letter, Hester is seen to be taken away from the prison with her daughter Pearl in her arms. She has been accused of adultery, and therefore the punishment for this action is to have an A scarlet on her chest as a sign of shame to her. In other words, when she wears, scarlet A on her chest, it will be seen as a shame by people who will realize what she has done and the type of person she is. However, to Hester, the opposite happens to her. When people link the A scarlet to shame, Hester symbol on her chest later becomes an “Able” to her, and she finds it as the only way through which the people will recognize her in the community.

In this episode, there is some information of arguments that have been presented. For example, most people argue according to the verses in the Bible, where people who are found to be involved in adultery should be put to death. “Any person who commits adultery with his neighbors' wife should be put to death,” Leviticus 20: 10. Both the woman and the man found to involve in the action should be killed (Hawthorne, 1900). This episode has experienced various uses of quotations to show the direct words which were spoken by different people in the story. This direct words become easy for the readers to understand more on what is majorly contained in the story. As compared to accounts that do not have direct quotations, this episode attracts the attention of readers who would want to understand the reason behind the application of the quotes.

The type of punishment that has been presented in Leviticus 20:10 is also evident in Mathew (5:27-28) where it states that any person who looks at another married woman lustfully has already done the adulterous sin in his heart. The presented episode and illuminating incident shown in the story is important since it functions as a case statement. For instance, the extracurricular activity which Hester was involved with makes her be punished (Hawthorne, 1900). Many people have different ways on how the two (Hester and Dimondale) found to be involved in adultery should be punished.  Additionally, a case statement is also presented as a result of this episode whereby; the A1641 law of Boston considered death as the only way to punish the people who were found to have been involved in the act of adultery. The bill was active, and in the year 1644, Mary and Briton were found to have engaged in adultery and were put to death.

In Puritan Massachusetts, corporal punishment was the only way through which the adulterous individuals would be punished, indicating that the sentence created by both the law and bible were harsh to the unfaithful people. The function of the presented illuminating incident also functions as a case statement in that; in the year 1688, where a woman by the name Hester Crawford was ordered by the then magistrate John to be whipped in the presence of people when she was found to have an illegitimate child (Hawthorne, 1900). According to magistrate John, the woman was involved in an adulterous act which later led to the child’s birth. This practice was abandoned in the nation, but the magistrate considered it as one of the significant cases which he was involved in and hence he decided to record it in his diary.

When Hester was made to were “A” scarlet on her chest as a punishment to her immoral action, it provided more strength to the ruling made by magistrate John in his times. The presentation of the two cases where a woman is whipped for siring an illegitimate child and the case where Hester is made to wear a Scarlet on her chest present the analysis of the punishment of adulterous people. This is seen when the actions or the two women are shown before the ruling organization and a decision made to punish them for their actions. The use of symbolism has also been used by the author of the fictional story to explain some of the facts and issues which existed in the story (Hawthorne, 1900). For instance, when Hester is made to wear the A scarlet on her chest, it was used to symbolize shame. She was meant to be shamed before everybody so that she could realize that what she had been involved in was wrong according to the traditions of the community.

In other words, the use of “A” had various symbols. To the author, “A” was a symbol of adultery, while to the readers of the story; “A” could mean “Able” or “America.” She was therefore made to wear the “A” scarlet so that the whole community could be aware of what she had done. Despite the unique sentence that Hester was given, many people still thought that Hester was proud of being an adulterous person. She was then forced to stay away from the community. She was sent to live in the outskirts of the city alone. The people of the town also treated her as an adulterous person since they did not want to unite with her or communicate with her. The punishment given to Hester was also a symbol on its own as it affected her child relationship with other children (Hawthorne, 1900).

 Most of the children consider Pearl, Hester child as a devil child. They treated Pearl just the same way people treated her mother. This clearly showed that her mother was adulterous as people had made up their mind of how they will manage the generation that is born out of adultery. Apart from “A” meaning shame to the people, it was also used to have various symbols in the community. For example, the “A” could indicate that America was a melting pot for ideas and many people. This was seen in the situation of Hester where she acquired the “A” under a particular condition. She had been without her husband for close to years since they separated and thought of being with another person where she later becomes pregnant with him.

“A” was also associated with the changes and creation of a new person or nation. The “A” which Hester wore on her chest made her who she was of late and how she was able to relate with other people. This is also the same when it comes to America where the “A” created a new nation with new things. Despite the mistakes, the misunderstanding and the hate that the government had developed with other countries, it was now a better nation where people could live as one and care for others (Hawthorne, 1900). It also means that the difference in cultures between the various communities in America could be abandoned.  The whole story is developed from symbolism. From the being of the story to end, Hester is seen wearing the A scarlet on her chest. The author, therefore, considers symbolism as the only way the audience or the readers of the story will acquire more on the information of the life of Hester.

The author has also used symbolism to present numerous case statements where adulterous people have been presented before the people to make decisions on what should be done to them. Additionally, the author uses the bible to support that law of the Puritans which condemned the adulterous act. Therefore, the scarlet letter can be presented to have a similarity or oneness with Hester and Hester has a similarity with the story because of her continuous mention from the start to the end of the story. The author also connects the activities of Hester and Dimmesdale to be connected to the change that was created in the community and entire America (Hawthorne, 1900).

It is also important to indicate a complete case statement function of the episode presented in the story. In this case, it would be important to note how the themes and imageries that have been used by the author become effective in the presented ideas of the story. One major theme that has been indicated in the story is revenge. Revenge is an act of responding to any action that was conducted negatively. When Hester and Dimmesdale are accused of adultery, the public decides that the only way they should pay for what she has done is to kill her. They want to revenge on her for breaking their culture (Hawthorne, 1900). However, this does not happen, and she is later taken to prison and walks while having “A” scarlet on her chest.  The public also revenges on the character of Hester by sending her away from the community. They made her live in the outskirts of the town alone, and nobody was expected to be close to her. This shows that the people did not embrace the adulterous act. Revenge was also directed to Pearl, her daughter. Despite the child being born illegitimately, the other children considered her as a devil child and did not want to be associated with her. This shows the revenge which the people were doing because of Hester.

Imagery has also been considered as a significant way through which the episode shows its function to the case statement. In the year 1644, a magistrate by the name John sentenced a woman who had been found to have an illegitimate child to be whipped in public.  The magistrate is used to indicate the harsh law which was to be conducted within the people. The law of the magistrate is seen to have been supported when Hester was sentenced to walk with “A” scarlet on her chest to show the type of a person she was (Hawthorne, 1900). This shows how the illuminating episode functions as a case statement in that; the law was created to punish any person who broke it. In other words, laws were created to guide the people on the things they were supposed to do. Thus when they were broken, what followed was a punishment. People would be involved by presenting various ideas based on the case and how they feel the situation should be handled. Lastly, a conclusion would be made by a magistrate on how the criminal would be treated.


Conclusively, the episode where Hester is made to wear “A” scarlet on her chest and walk with it as a sign of shaming her for her crime is an illuminating incident. This incident explains more of the activities which took place in the story and how the people reacted to them. The illuminating incident is also seen to have functioned as a case statement whereby; the laws which were developed in the past were used to judge Hester on the best punishment that should be given to her. This, therefore, informs the readers on the intentions of the story and the how to understand it. The author shows that the story is about romantic love, and this can be seen when Hester gets pregnant for Dimmesdale.  

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