Often in society people are criticized, punished and despised for their individual choices and flaws. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author attempts to show the way society casts out individuals simply because their ideas and deeds differ from the common values. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne to symbolize that those who challenge social conformities can benefit society as a whole. Though she has been banished for committing adultery, she sees that the community needs her. Through her generous accomplishments the community realizes she is a person who, regardless of her sin, can affect the community in a positive way. .
In the beginning of the book Hester Prynne is publicly humiliated as a punishment for breaking a Puritan belief and one of the Ten Commandments; adultery. She is then forced to stand in front of the town for hours as the crowd tries to break her down with criticism and shaming words. After her release, "the scene was not without a mixture of awe, such as much always invest the spectacle of guilt and shame of a fellow creature" (63). They almost took a delight in her punishment, having thought they cleansed the town, and therefore only leaving a "pure" society. They thought that if they treated her so horrible that no one would ever even think of breaking the law again. As the story begins the townspeople do not see her as a necessity but as a nuisance to get rid of. They do not realize the need for which they have of her. And that she is just as much a part of the community as they all are. So in a sense when the banish Hester they are banishing a part of themselves. After this she is given more punishment by having to wear the letter "A" embroidered on everything she wears as a reminder to everyone that she has committed adultery. She is thrown out of town and is no longer a community member. She suffered these ordeals and punishments because she was an affront to them; she is an individual and that scares them.