Scarlet Letter By Hawthorne Idea
The Scarlet Letter is a story of hypocrisy and punishment. The strict Puritan
laws made adultery a sin punishable by death or a life of misery. Although being
an unwed mother or an illegitimate child is no longer a crime leading to capitol
punishment, the treatment of welfare mothers and their children is similar to
the treatment Hester an Pearl received in Hawthorneís novel. Hester and Pearl
are prime examples of the negative attitude society, both Puritan and current,
has toward single mothers and their "bastard" children. Hester and Pearl are
the atypical example of illegitimate child and unwed mother. The consequence of
the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale is a child out of wedlock. Hester
is forced to stand with her child on a scaffold which according to Hawthorne is"invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself."

Pearl is forced to grow up without a father and Hester is left to make a life
for herself and her child with no social succor. The puritans favored laws that
would force society to hear their preaching (2.Gatis, 5). To the Puritan
community Hesterís "A" is a mark of just punishment. According to Crime
and Punishment in American History, executing adulterers was a rare event.

Branding and banishment was more common than the death penalty (6.Friedman, 36).

In a society where there is no separation of church and state, the letter
prevents Hester from being an active member of society. Hester, or a puritan
woman in her condition, is held as an example for all to behold. While Hester is
forced to wear a symbol of her sin, Pearl is forced to grow up watching her
mother chastised. She can not have a normal childhood, for she does not fit into
society. Her father is a "dead beat dad" and lends no hand in her up
bringing. Hawthorne states, "Pearl was born an outcast of the infantile world.

An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened
infants." In the Puritan community, the father is considered the head of
household. According to Edmund S. Morganís The Puritan Family, there was a law
in Massachusetts holding the head of household responsible for teaching their
children and providing instruction of civil matters. Family in the Puritan
society was a means for carrying out civil purposes (5.Kerry, 16). Family life
was very important and all members of the society were expected to be part of a
family. Fatherless children would not fall into the category of a family unit,
therefore Pearl, not having a proper family, is chastised and branded a child of
the devil. Although Dimmsedale does not remain unscathed by sin, he is not
punished by society. He is able to hide his participation in the evil act, and
escape a punishment of death. Hester is forced to raise the child on her own
without any moral or monetary support from her lover. She has to ask to be
allowed to keep her child, and is forced to do so as a single mother. Although
the town wants to find the father of Pearl in the beginning of the novel, the
issue is not forced, and Dimmsedale escapes responsibility. Despite the
suffering Dimmsedale feels internally, he still takes no initiative to help in
the raising of Pearl. Although having a child out of wedlock is no longer
punishable by death, and women are no longer forced to wear scarlet letters,
unwed mothers are still the ones held solely responsible for their illegitimate
children. Unwed mothers are branded as immoral welfare recipients who are too
lazy to work. AFDC is known as a wasteful program that encourages unwed mothers
to continue to have children. Much of society has not change their views since
the Puritan days. At the American Enterprise Institute luncheon Charles Murray
said, "The act of getting pregnant if you are not prepared to care for a child
is not morally neutral, it is a very destructive act. And much as we may
sympathize with a young woman who finds herself in that situation... part of
arranging society so that happens as seldom as possible is to impose terrible
penalties on that act (1.Conniff, 18)." This is seemingly reverting to the
tactics used by the Puritans. Welfare programs for unwed mothers are thought to
be a waste of tax dollars. Politicians continue to debate welfare reforms while
the country continues to view unwed mothers as failures. In the article Just the

Facts, Katha Pollitt writes, "As a mythological figure, the welfare mother