Loss of Innocence in the Puritan Society

In the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne hones in on the contrast between good versus bad and the loss of innocence that defies that line. Hester Prynne is a symbol of shame and sin to the puritan society, however she once was an innocent and honorable woman. On page 76, Hawthorne repeats the phrase “At her, child of honorable parents… At her, mother of a babe… At her. ” This repetition emphasizes the way Hester was once viewed as a symbol of purity and honor in the puritan community.
Hawthorne also uses phrases like “Child of honorable parents”, “mother of a babe” and “had once been innocent” to contrast Hester’s sin with the innocence that she once had. This is also an example of pathos because the author is reaching out to the reader and making a point of the difference between Hester as a symbol of innocence and purity, and Hester as a symbol of shame and mistake. These phrases create a fine line between what is good and what is bad in the puritan community.
Hawthorn later uses phrases like “heap of shame”, “misery”, “frailty”, “sinful passion”, “doom” and “alien” to make an example of Hester and emphasize her terrible actions. The diction in these phrases expresses the negative outlook toward Hester in society. She made a bad decision that haunts her and causes society to view her loss of innocence as a symbol of sin and dishonesty, to a point where they alienate her from the community. Hawthorne also uses the phrase “It may seem marvelous… It may seem marvelous… It may seem marvelous,” over and over again.

This repetition also draws a contrast between the things that haunt Hester in her community and her desire to remain where she lives rather than pack up and move away. The author is saying that with all of the hatred and shame that haunts Hester in Boston, it is marvelous that she chooses to stay rather than flee. Something about her sin and guilt there makes her want to stay instead of running from it. This shows the moral strength and integrity in Hester as a character. Although she made a terrible decision and has lost the innocence that she once had, there is no clearly defined line in her character between good and bad.
Sometimes good people make bad decisions. In this case, Hester is such a strong willed character that she chose an individual freedom over the conformity in the puritan era when she committed her crime. In conclusion, Hawthorne makes an example of Hester Prynne in the puritan era to show the conformity and honor that society lived by. When Hester committed that sin, she became a symbol of shame and loss of innocence to the puritan community. Through the use of repetition, pathos, and diction, Hawthorne discusses the line between good versus bad in the puritan era and how loss of innocence effects that balance.

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