The Scarlet Letter

What appears to be Hawthorne's attitude toward Biblical discipline as given in Proverbs 3:11?

Ch. 6: Pearl

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I think the proverb goes something like, "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Hester certainly is a picture of a type of innocent suffering. Not in the way of Job but in so far as she is pure of intent. If the Lord disciplines those he loves, He certainly loves Hester!

"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction." Proverb 3:11

Hawthorne was raised in a devoutly Puritan home; the church controls the Puritan community. Hawthorne used this as the basis for Chapter 6 in which he describes the price that's been paid for the birth of a child;

"We have hardly spoken about that innocent infant who happened to spring, like a beautiful, eternal flower, from the foul indulgence of her mother’s guilty passion. How strange it seemed to Hester, as she watched her daughter grow more beautiful and more intelligent every day! Her Pearl! That’s what Hester named her, not in reference to the child’s appearance—which was neither calm nor pale, like a true pearl—but because she had come at a great price. Hester bought the child by parting with the only treasure she had: her virtue! How strange, indeed! Society had marked this woman’s sin with a scarlet letter, which was so powerful that no human sympathy could reach her unless it was the sympathy of a fellow sinner. As the direct result of the sin that man had punished, God had given her a lovely child. Pearl’s place was on Hester’s dishonored bosom. She connected her mother to the rest of mankind, and she would eventually become a blessed soul in Heaven! Yet these thoughts gave Hester more fear than hope. She knew she had committed an evil act, so she had no faith that its result would be good. Day after day, she watched fearfully as the child grew, always dreading the emergence of some dark and wild trait derived from the guilt in which she was conceived."


When you read the way Hawthorne describes the child, and the way in which he "treats" the punishment of her mother, we can see that Hawthorne's true intent was to chastise the Puritan religion for its extreme beliefs. The author's intent was not to titillate the reader; his intent was to expose the aftermath. His deepest concern lie in Hester's shame, the stigma placed on her daughter as a "child of sin," and the "true" sin of a society that would punish a woman and an innocent child far longer then need be.