Many of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works of literature focus on the issues surrounding Puritan society. Hawthorne explores the tendency that many fundamentalist religious groups have towards the alienation of those members deemed sinful and uncovers the hidden evil in even the most pious of preachers. He achieves this by developing plot lines focusing on interactions between ignorant and often malevolent religious characters and sinful but relatable protagonists. The novel The Scarlet Letter, The Ministers Black Veil and Young Goodman Brown all unite upon this common thread. .
The opening scene of chapter 2 in The Scarlet Letter describes a gaggle of gossiping women viewing Hester Prynne's punishment. Hawthorne writes, ""The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch,-that is a truth,' added a third autumnal matron. 'At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me. But she, -the naughty baggage, -little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!'" (SL pg49) This quote offers a glance into the mindset of those Puritan onlookers, describing a community wholly absorbed in hypocrisy. Despite considering themselves followers of Jesus Christ, the group tosses to the wind his teachings and his calls for mercy. They cry for a harsher sentence, one that will leave Hester disfigured for life even though their proclaimed lord appealed for clemency and compassion for those caught up in sin. In a similar vein, though from another perspective, in The Minister's Black Veil Hawthorne writes "Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil?" (MBV pg32) This details the fear of the unknown that permeates the innermost domain of the human psyche.