The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller

May 1, 2018

The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter are bound to have some similarities as the two novels are both set in strict puritan societies in the later 17th and early 18th centuries. The two novels both depict the lives of the people who are living in these new, developing colonies. In societies with such strict puritan moral, there are bound to be some recalcitrant people who bring passion and excitement to quite stringent towns. Although The Crucible by Arthur Miller and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne are similar in terms of having critical societies and crimes of passion, the two works differ on the terms as one work labels every accused person as guilty but the other does not.


The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter are similar as both have critical townspeople who judge everything and everyone. In The Crucible, townspeople are accusing their neighbors of witchcraft in order to save themselves. No one wants to be convicted because if so he or she will be killed. Blame floats from person to person until someone calls an end to the foolish trials. Neighbors rally against the accused as they think losing one life in better than losing many. In The Scarlet Letter, women harshly critique Hester Prynne for committing adultery. Grown women call her names and brand her as an outcast because of her sin. Hester is forced to live on the outskirts of the town as she is not welcomed in by the townspeople. Hester must wear an “A” to brand herself as an adulterer and a sinner. As a result of her crime, her daughter inevitably gets judged as well. Even though she does not mind, Pearl lives a life a solitude without friends or a father, and in doing so, she is labeled as an “elf child.” In both societies, anyone who has made the slightest mistake is branded as an outcast. These people from these strict societies do not want to focus on their own faults and mistakes so they heavily critique other people’s downfalls.


The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter both mark the lives of those in the bland puritan societies who have committed crimes of passion. In The Crucible, John Proctor makes the mistake of having an affair with Abigail Williams. Even though Proctor no longer wants anything to do with Abby, Abby wants Proctor all to herself and will go to great lengths to make sure he is hers. Abby accuses Proctor’s wife as she hopes she will be arrested, and Proctor will finally be alone and single. This spark of passion causes a set of trials that pits neighbor against neighbor and causes innocent people to lose their lives. However, in the end Proctor feels guilty for all of the trials and feels as though he can only be redeemed for his sin if he dies. Therefore, Abigail started the trials for nothing as she does not get to marry John Proctor. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne has a daughter and is labelled an adulterer as the result of passion. Living in a puritan society, everything is very mild and bland, so Hester having a child with someone that is not her husband is very wrong and against moral code. This crime of passion casts a shadow on Hester and her daughter and causes them to live a life of seclusion. Hester is marked and is looked down upon by many due to her crime. These crimes of passion leave the accused people marked as outcasts as they introduced controversy in the very strict, moral towns.


The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter differ as in The Crucible every person who is accused of witchcraft is declared guilty whereas in The Scarlet Letter few people are accused of being guilty. In The Crucible, every name mentioned at a trial results in another accused person of witchcraft. Even if a person’s name was just merely mentioned, the person must go to court to either be accused or to clear his or her name. For example, Elizabeth Proctor’s name is originally just mentioned at court, and then a few moments later she is accused of witchcraft and must go on trial. Many innocent people die because the court declared every accused person guilty. However, in The Scarlet Letter, only one of the actually guilty characters gets accused and must pay the punishment of his or her crime. Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale have both committed a crime of passion. However, Hester is declared an adulterer and is looked down by society while Dimmesdale continues to live his normal life. When Dimmesdale declares his sins through his sermons, his congregation chooses not to listen to his messages about his sins but rather continues to glorify Dimmesdale for being a great, moral person. Even at the end of the novel when Dimmesdale is standing on the scaffold with Pearl and Hester, he declares that he is also a sinner, but many people in the audience do not believe him. However, when Hester is standing on the scaffold in the beginning of the novel, everyone in the crowd is extremely quick to judge Hester for her mistakes. Therefore, it can be concluded that the people of Boston are very selective in deciding who is innocent and who is guilty. In conclusion, these two pieces of literature differ as in one piece townspeople announced all accused people as guilty while in the other work, the townspeople decided out of the accused who is guilty and who is innocent.






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