The Scarlet Letter

Consequences of Escaping Punishment in The Scarlet Letter and Crime and Punishment

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Feodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment share a common theme – the consequences of escaping punishment. This paper explores the authors’ views about psychological punishment as a much worse sentence than any given by the law. It focuses particularly on the personal tortures of the main characters in these novels: Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne, Raskolnikov, and Sonya. It also explores the dynamic between the female characters and their male partners.

The type of punishment seen in these novels is not what is typically implied by the word, defined as “the imposition of a penalty for a fault, offense, or violation.” Dimmesdale and Raskolnikov try to run from punishment and endure immense mental suffering and psychological torment before their crimes are revealed to the public. Hester’s punishment is given early in the book, while Sonya receives none from the law. However, both these characters, like their male counterparts, also suffer a mental punishment that can be seen as a much greater punishment than public shame and incarceration.

The Scarlet Letter takes place in a Puritan settlement in New England. Hester Prynne’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, sent her off to America and...

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