Essay: Public Humiliation and The Scarlet Letter .
The Scarlet Letter deals with the controversial issue of adultery in puritan society. In this novel, Hester Prynne, the young adultress, is punished for her sins by being forced to wear a bright red letter A on her chest at all times. It is a symbol of shame and disgrace. However, the Scarlet Letter raises the question of whether or not public humiliation is an appropriate and effective form of retribution for those who have committed crimes. It was proposed that convicted drunk drivers should be made to carry a marked driver's license for ten years. The cause for reservation is that some are not certain that drunk driver's will learn from their mistakes, even if they are made public.
In the Scarlet Letter, Hester was forced to live her life with a symbol of shame on her chest, although that symbol eventually took on other meanings. Hester sees the scarlet letter as a representation of her character. She realizes that her sin is a large part of the person she is and will always be. To remove the scarlet letter would be like denying a part of her identity. In fact, it appears that a small part of Hester might actually be proud of the mark. It seems she did not learn from bearing the A on her chest. Even after having spent years in so called shame, Hester probably would have repeated her mistake. Public humiliation is not as effective as some people think it may be. The decisions and choices a person makes are deliberate and, be it consciously or sub-consciously, thought out. Hester and Dimsdale's decision to have "improper relations" was no accident and neither regretted their choice. Therefore, the scarlet letter was ineffective in changing the way either character felt. Nevertheless, it may be that other people learned from Hester's sinful blunder. Perhaps Hester's supposed indignity caused them to think twice before repeating her mistake.