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Today I will be presenting my essential question based on the novel, "The Scarlet Letter", written by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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The Scarlet Letter



By: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Today I will be presenting my essential question based on the novel, "The Scarlet Letter", written by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


My essential question is " What are the benefits of harsh punishment?" Benefits? There could be benefits to harsh punishment? Why yes, there can be. Back in the colonial ages, there were many things that could be accounted for as a crime. And with crime, there is punishment. Some of the crimes that could be committed consisted of: adultery, fornication, gossiping, stealing, not attending church, making counterfeit money.

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Skipping church

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Making counterfeit money ... It was said that if you were to commit this crime it was 'punishable by death'
Photo by ShellyS

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The harsh punishments ranged according to how bad the crime was. For instance, for the "town gossip," it was told that they would wear the "gossip's bridle"

According to James,
"This was a sort of heavy iron cage, that covered the head; a flat tongue of iron, sometimes spiked, was thrust into the mouth over the criminal's tongue. Less sophisticated areas made do with a "simpler machine—a cleft stick pinched on the tongue"

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For others that had committed a more severe crime such as adultery, it was required that the person would stand on the pillory to be publicly ridiculed and humiliated as they stood in the middle of the town square, and "Often, the ears of the subject were nailed to the wood on either side of the head hole"

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In conclusion, James Cox stated that, "The earliest criminal codes mirrored the nasty, precarious life of pioneer settlements." and,
"Behind most of the systems of justice in early civilizations lay the concept of vengeance, making the miscreant pay for his crime.A benefit to this idea was deterrence—giving other would-be offenders a good reason to stay on the straight and narrow"


  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Recognition. The Scarlet Letter. San Diego. Canterbury Classics/Baker & Taylor Publishing Group. 2014.55.Print.
  • Cox, James A. "Colonial Crimes and Punishments." Colonial Williamsburg. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. .