Shame in the Scarlet Letter

1 January 2017

Shame affects everyone in their lives sooner or later. People don’t all feel it in the same way. In the book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the main character Hester Prynne knows how it feels to be ashamed or embarrassed. She’s shamed because while she was married she cheated on her husband. She ended up having a baby with another man. To punish her she was commanded to wear a letter “A” for adultery, by the townspeople, to always be reminded of what she did.

During the book Hester tries her hardest to not show her embarrassment but it still ends up coming out in certain parts. Another person that tries to be strong during what could be very shameful experience is a teenager that’s pregnant. Hester’s scarlet letter and a teenage pregnancy can be very similar in regards to shamefulness and the problems that come with it. The way I look at it, is that the teenage pregnancy is the new scarlet letter for this time period. I say this because it’s always there reminding them of their mistake, and it’s something they don’t want people to know but they’re obviously going to find out.

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Since, teenage pregnancy has been happening a lot more often people have become more understanding about it. If this happened back then imagine what they would have done. Hester was an adult and still had a horrible punishment, now if she was a teenager the punishment probably would have been times worse. Like I said Hester tried to be strong in the whole situation. While she was on the scaffold she had a “burning blush and yet a haughty smile” (50). This showed that even though she was trying to make it seem like it didn’t bother her; it still did with her burning blush.

What the burning blush meant was that her face was red and she was embarrassed with herself. On the other side the girls that are pregnant as teenagers have to face a lot of shame. They have many of decisions to make like if they should stay in school, what they’re going to do after high school, and the biggest question are they going to keep the baby. I know girls that stay in school during it have a lot of courage. I say this because as they walk through the halls everyone stares at them and has something to say, most of the time it’s not good things.

People need to realize that the girl most like wasn’t planning to have a baby; it was an accident, like with Hester in The Scarlet Letter. Like how Pearl was unplanned. When people judge harshly on things that aren’t their business, bad things can happen. For example when Hester was on the scaffold in the middle of the town, and all the people where yelling nasty things at her. That must have made her feel horrible. The same thing applies with teenage girls. It makes them feel like they don’t have many friends and they become ostracized. When people constantly talk bad about the girl it’ll get to her.

Like when Hester and Chillingworth are talking in the beginning of the book he says “I will not encounter the dishonor that besmirches the husband of a faithless woman” (73). I used this quote because she already knows what she did was wrong but, he continued to rub it in by saying she’s not faithful and what she did dishonored him. Because of the peoples ignorance in the Puritan society Hester lived a life of shame and solitude. This is why people shouldn’t make assumptions and be so quick to judge on issues that have nothing to do with them.

Shame affected both of these people early in their lives. They have to take responsibility for what happened because of their actions. During that process they might have some embarrassing times but, they just need to overcome it. Everyone makes mistakes early in life; it’s just things to learn from. I give both Hester and any girl that’s going through an unplanned teenage pregnancy credit because it takes a lot of courage to go through either of those situations. Both teenage pregnancy and Hester’s Scarlet Letter can bring shame and embarrassment, and also some difficult problems to deal with.

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Shame in the Scarlet Letter. (2017, Jan 02). Retrieved March 22, 2019, from
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