Hawthorne depicts conformity as a repercussion of tradition that also creates identity among people in a society. Through the main character Hester, Dimmisdale, and Pearl, it is evident that people conform to rules superficially. Traditions and laws force people to match their beliefs and actins to the societal norms but they desire other things in their heart. Foreigners from other regions are not spared from the traditions but their level of defiance will be higher than those of the natives. Hawthorne also shows that children born in such societies grow and learn to conform to the expectations of the society because the laws incorporated in their daily life.
Hester and Conformity
Hester Prynne was justified to be an adulterer because her husband, Chilingworth failed in his duties. He sent her to America but failed to join her yet she was a young woman with sexual desires. She fell in love with the Puritan minister who paid attention to her. Her character is awesome because she exhibits strength and intelligence that many people in her community cannot match. Her suffering presented an opportunity to study the norms of her community and the way women suffered under those regulations. The scarlet letter that portrayed her as an adulterer did not deter her from living a happy life. She was often publicly humiliated and isolated but her inner strength is impeccable. She defied the conventions in the community to emerge a survivor. She did not need to conform to the attitudes and beliefs that the community expected. Her conscience did not allow her to live miserably because her husband had betrayed her by not following her to the new country.
The culture of the Puritans was favorable to the women because they suffered on behalf of the men. Dimmesdale had an affair with Hester but she suffered scorn and humiliation yet the latter knew she was married. As described in the book, her beauty made her glow despite her misery. She suffered seven years for her adulterous sin before she could remove the scarlet letter but had to return it after Pearl demanded it She never conforms to the society and her defiance over their norms grows every day. This is exhibited in the talks she had with her husband and Governor Bellingham. She refused to agree to Bellingham’s suggestion of the Pearl’s guardianship. She refused to give up Pearl and threatened to challenge the guardianship to death. Hester’s strength enabled her to survive beyond the death of both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth to become a legend. Conformity was only superficial when she wore the scarlet letter but her identity did not change. The scarlet letter was meant to bring shame and misery but it made her strong and compassionate.
Dimmesdale, Natural Order, Man’s Law and Conformity
Dimmesdale identity represented weakness and his lack of courage to confess his sin worsened his character. He was passionate about God and his religion but allowed his passion to consume him. He had an affair with a married woman yet he was an ordained minister. His character represents conformity because he was scared of the Puritan laws. He feared the scorn of his congregation because he always swayed them to live better lives. He was effective in swaying the masses to obey the laws of God and this made it hard for him to confess his sin. Hawthorne uses the character of Dimmesdale to show conformity in the society. He had many opportunities to confess but had live according to the society’s expectation that he was flawless.
Hawthorne also shows that conformity emerges from the distinction of natural order and man’s law. Natural order allows human beings to cohabitate and exhibit flaws but man’s laws overlooked such issues. The punishment given to malefactors in the Puritan society is vicious. The people expected conformity and found it hard to love any person that was branded a sinner. Their laws were derived from the Bible but they forgot to apply forgiveness as exhibited in the Holy Book. This repressive society had laws that focused on punishment rather than building natural relations. The role of tradition in bringing conformity is shown through the puritan laws. The Puritans were stern Calvinists that believed in punishment. They used Hester as a symbol of sin to remind other sinners of their fate.
Hawthorne shows conformity as a superficial element in the society because people were sinners in private but exhibited clear conscience in public. The puritan laws prompted Hester and Dimmesdale to plan an escape to Europe in order to pursue they life they desired. Hawthorne uses Hester as a symbol of a better life for the future generations that will have less suffering. Pearl was born in America but the puritan laws created her identity. She was mischievous but quite intelligent than other children. The common reference of the society about the Hester’s sin made her to discern the meaning of the scarlet letter. She made public comments about her father being the Devil. Hawthorne succeeds in showing that tradition moulds identity and conformity among the people.