Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter

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Since the beginning of civilization, mankind has set up laws in order to be held to a standard above others. Though many crimes against these laws are minute, and can be paid for through religious devotion or small fees, some are held to a higher standard with a far greater debt to be remunerated. One of these major crimes being the unfaithfulness of a spouse, or an unmarried person having relations with another. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses on the issue of the severe punishment for adultery; today, women in many countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, and Iran suffer similar fates. In Nigeria, Amina Lawal, a 31 year old mother of four, serves as a present day Hester Prynne. Due to Lawal’s pregnancy while she wasn’t married she was put to trial for not upholding muslim customs. “‘She deserves to be stoned to death,’ the prosecutor declared”. Due to her unfaithfulness to the muslim faith, many believed she should be tried based off of the punishments of their laws.

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Likewise in The Scarlet Letter Hester was put to trial because of the strict puritan customs of the time. Of which the punishments were the same, death. However in Hester’s case they decided to not give her the death sentence, but instead she was sentenced “to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her Wilson 2bosom.” However in both cases they did not let these things affect their faith in their respective religions. It is reported that Lawal’s faith is unshaken and has been recorded saying”One day Allah will bring everything to an end, and that will be it.” Likewise in Hester’s case she went on and stayed faithful, and even raised Pearl in the puritan customs. These similarities point to the belief that, though centuries apart Lawal, represents a common day Hester Prynne. Farzana Parveen a 25 year old resident of Pakistan was beaten to death after marrying the man she loved instead of her cousin, and then became pregnant. “The 25-year-old woman’s father, brother and spurned father were among about a dozen male relatives who used bricks and clubs in the so-called honor killing for disobeying her family’s wishes.” This woman was killed because instead of accepting the arranged marriage her family set up she decided to marry man whom she loved.

Likewise in The Scarlet Letter, Hester being alone in her new home found comfort in Arthur Dimmesdale a man who she grew to love. ‘But this had been a sin of passion, not of principle, nor even purpose.’ In both of their cases they decided to instead of doing what was deemed as culturally, and religiously correct they decided to choose passion and true love. Both had a man already set for them, they did not find what they were looking for in them, and as a result they found someone better. Though this did not cost Hester her life, Parveen is a present day Prynne because of their choice for love instead of the status quo. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year old Iranian mother of two was sentenced to be stoned to death. “She received 99 lashes for allegedly committing adultery with two-men after Wilson 3lashes, she was forced into confessing” In Ashtiani’s case she was not given a fair trial, in her society women are given very little opportunity to speak or witness in trials. In fact most of the time, in these trials evidence given by women is only used in order to prosecute, instead of prove innocent. Likewise in Hester’s story, the society is quick to outcast her and give her little to none of an opportunity to defend herself. As well the religious importance of both cases gives little to none outside help. “Since non-Muslims- in Iran that refers to Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and Baha’i minorities- are not seen as just, they cannot serve as witnesses.” This eliminated those in Ashtiani’s case who could have helped her. As well in Prynne’s story after she was convicted her symbol of the scarlet “A” did not cause for people of other ways of life to disrespect her, instead they were intrigued.

After the events of Dimmesdale’s last sermon Hester disappears and becomes that of a legend, in her returning she became that of a spiritual guide. “Hester becomes a valued counselor to many women.” The people in which she helped could have helped her, but due to the persecution of that society, as well as that in Iran, both women were not given proper judiciary help in their cases. Hester and the three women of these articles have all faced persecution against societies with strict religious laws and practices. Though the price they have paid have varied they have all been used as an example, however for those who still have their lives still they did not let these circumstances stop them, yet instead they have continued on with their lives and are still parts of their communities.

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