The Scarlet Letter : Crime and Punishment


Many young people spend a great portion of their lives on social media and creating a world which evolves as they go. An alarming amount of teenagers engage in a disturbing practice called “slut-shaming.”using photos, videos, and personal information to ruin others kids private lives. This form of Cyber-bullying is a modern version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s’ The Scarlet Letter.

Several websites on Facebook,Twitter and other popular social media have actual pages dedicated to shaming and humiliating young people . These sexually explicit pages are often raging with slanderous comments and shared thousands of time to the point the repercussions can destroy a child’s life far beyond their school peers. Once it gets to a social media network it’s over for a young person’s life. Girls harass each other online. Girls do it to themselves and the boys involved rarely are held responsible for their participation in the shaming. A Lot of the victims are not even aware of their actions being recorded.Some kids are set-up by groups and take pride it showing it to their friends. It’s the victim who gets the brunt of the shame. Though some groups have been arrested and charges filed,the child who was abused is shamed forever once it’s on the internet, it’s forever. They must shoulder this shame it’s their Scarlet Letter.

Here’s why this violation is the modern day Scarlet Letter, just like Hester Prynne, The atmosphere of judgement and criticism associated with photo sharing and commenting on social network sites, and the double standard that applies to boys and girls. Hester Prynne was singled out and publicly ridiculed by the community. She was not the only person to commit the offense of adultery, although the town elders spared her life because they did think it was unfair only condemn her, they still put her in jail and forced her to wear a badge of shame. They came from the Puritan belief that all women came from the original sin of Adam and Eve, and the female was the temptress. Just as the cyber-bullying ,the man was able to escape the real trauma of sexual actions.The women bares the brunt of the humiliation.”One token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another.” Chapter II, ‘The Market-Place (The Scarlet Letter )

Hawthorne unpacks the Puritanical idea of sin, ‘Man had marked this woman’s sin by a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself. God, as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child.’ (The Scarlet Letter) Here, Hawthorne justifies that the consequences for Hester’s adultery are the scarlet letter . Though this done in Puritan times, this practice of shaming women has reared its’ ugly head in the 21st century. Whether it is on the playground or virtually, peer cruelty doesn’t seem to have any limits or boundaries. The techniques are more sophisticated than in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s’ time but the elements of power and control are still the driving force.

Jealousy and revenge are part of the spirit of The Scarlet Letter. The towns people don’t like that Hester Prynne is beautiful and elegant. That she refuses to comply to the dark, drab clothing of the Puritans. That she is full of life and vibrant passion. At the start of the story, Hester Prynne emerges out of the prison, to stand before the town with the scarlet A on her dress. The taunting crowd gathers around her, Hawthorne describes a group of gossiping women. They are mean and belittling , calling Hester a ‘hussy’ and saying she should have the A branded on her forehead with hot iron. One woman even says, ‘This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die.’ Her view is harsh and does not account for mercy or atonement. Hawthorne openly questions the judgmental tone of these town women. Is this about adultery or envious resentment for not conforming like the other women. They are most definitely Slut-Shaming Hester .

Slut-shaming is a disturbing trend in which teens harshly criticize each other’s body types and style, continues to invade the Internet.Young girls, and boys, have started creating memes on Tumblr and Facebook to offer insulting advice to their peers. The new trend has reignited concerns over adolescent cyber-bullying and has raised questions about the legality of such public shaming. Free speech has its limits. Bullying and harassing somebody, or making them a target, may be against the law.

Whether it’s Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter or the girl next door being singled out, by other young people just because they are different, it is about insecurities .What are we teaching our youth about accepting people and respecting their rights to live with freedom and dignity?