Conformity – the Scarlet Letter

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In the Puritan’s view, the world is full of sin. Sinners must be punished and Without conformity, people are left as outsiders. Conformity is influenced by the identification with a specific group. In order to be truly accepted as a member of the clergy, people must adapt to the group’s set of rules that govern their beliefs and behavior. According to Puritan writer, Pita Mae Brown, “the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.” This cruel reality is present everywhere and elicits one’s frailties. Many people conceal their flaws in order to better fit into the society. As a result, the profound disconnect between society and your individual mind becomes further more prevalent.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is comparable to the Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Both stories take place in the Puritan era and revolve around the harsh religious law enforcement. Characters from each of the works strive for individuality which puts their lives at risk. Those who think or act independently are seen as a sinner to the community and those around them. The moment an individual rebels from the group and or religion, the group must denounce the individual because he or she ruins their image as a whole. In the Puritan mindset, ignoring the sin and not punishing implies acceptance and approval of their defiance towards God. The clergy must show God that they condemn the sin and the sinner to portray they are devout Puritans. This is presented in the form of strict punishments. Therefore, Conformity is needed because anything less is a breach and threat to the societal standards.

The Puritan society consists of ministers and magistrates enacting the law of God, judging and punishing those who commit sins, and protecting the laws that are of the ten commandments. These traditions force people to match their beliefs and actions to the societal norms, even if they desire other things in their heart. Puritans possess natural tendencies of repressing the behavior of other humans actions and thoughts. This illustrates how strict and viscous the Puritan mindset is capable of. The presence of conformity and sin is most significant in The Scarlet Letter.

Through the main characters Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl, it is evident that conformity is a superficial element in the Puritan society because people sin in private but exhibit no traces in public. Because of their secret, Hester makes precautionary actions to keep Pearl silent due to her immaturity and adolescence. “Mother,’ said she,’ was that the same minister that kissed me by the brook?’ ‘Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl!’ whispered her mother. ‘We must not always talk in the marketplace of what happens to us in the forest’” (Hawthorne 228). During the inauguration ceremony for the new governor, Pearl sees Dimmesdale and notices his difference in personality. The anxiousness in Hester’s voice to Pearl illustrates the need to keep quiet in order to “fit” in without being noticed or judged by the townspeople. 

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Conformity - The Scarlet Letter. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved November 28, 2023 , from

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