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Hawthorne’s Motives for Writing the Scarlett Letter Essay

Hawthorne’s motives for writing The Scarlet Letter were to expose corruption in Puritan society, religion, and politics. Hawthorne demonstrates both corruption and hypocrisy in Puritan society as the townspeople and even the Governor wear her embroidery, yet banish her and ostracize her as an outcast and a sinner. The town buys her clothes for an unknown reason; most likely their own curiosity, it’s beauty, or they just felt sorry for her. This shows the society’s inability to follow through with their own punishments. They are willing to ostracize her and banish her, but still buy her embroidery. However much they chose to wear her embroidery on most articles of clothing, they refused to wear her embroidery on wedding veils as they were created by her sinful hands, showing the “relentless vigor with which society frowned upon her sin” (Hawthorne 76).

Religion played a major role in Hawthorne’s writing, even though he was not a member of any religious organization. The religion mentioned in The Scarlet Letter was Puritanism and in his writing he intended to expose the power the Puritans used to control the church and state. For example, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams differed with the colony’s leaders on the relationship between church and state. “The authorizes in the Bay feared that the foul error emanating from him could spread and corrupt the entire colony. In October 1635, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony banished him” (smithsonianmag.com).

Due to the fact that Hawthorne was not a part of any organized religion he was able to criticize religions without the fear of repercussion. Hawthorne also wanted to expose the corruption in religion when he wrote The Scarlet Letter. In the Custom House he mentioned that he was a Democrat while the Whigs were in power. Hawthorne also said “I had spent three years…in an unnatural state, doing what was really of no advantage nor delight to any human being” (Hawthorne 40). Here he is saying that because he was a Democrat in a Whig society he felt he couldn’t speak up and that it was unnatural.


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