The period in which the story is based is a decisive period in the history of America due to the fact that it was the period when puritanism was settled.
Although Hawthorne criticised several forces of puritanism throughout the story, such as severity or intolerance, he was also interested in some of its characteristics and principles. There is a continuous ambiguity throughout the story, particularly because it represents the barrenness of American history and concurrently diverse values of puritanism. One of the main Hawthorne’s concerns was to introduce the English traditions, past and architecture in America, due to the fact that the puritans rejected them when they moved to the new land. The English heritage that appears in the novel comprised an excellent cultural baggage, because the beauty of European architecture and other artistic references were non-existent in the colonies. The consequence that this denial created was the barrenness of the puritan culture, because they rejected everything related to their past. One of the main Hawthorne’s intents was to criticise the puritan period, because in his opinion the puritan laws were responsible for the lack of an artistic development in America. When Hester is at the scaffold, she remembers her life in England and Amsterdam, but also she recalls the public buildings, the ancient cathedrals and the antique architecture from her foregoing country.
Hester’s attitude is a rebellion against both puritan rules and puritan culture, and when she is bound to carry an “A” over her breast, she transforms the adultery in art. This transformation is carried out by means of the beauty of her needlework, but also through her daughter Pearl. In this story art is compared to beauty, the beauty of Hester and Pearl, the beauty of her needlework, the beauty of the letter “A”. When she was in jail her beauty does not disappear even in her darkest moments, and her guilt is not marked in the features of her face. When she is the woods, she starts wearing beautiful clothes, but her rebellion persists in the way she embroiders the red “A” over her breast, and Pearl becomes a symbol of rebellion as well. Hester’s use of art is connected with both European artistic manifestations and even ecclesiastical art, which was not permitted in this puritan colony. She creates a non-puritan mode of beauty which is an offence to the members of the community, due to the fact that the “A” letter was supposed to be a manner to show her sinful condition and not a symbol of rebellion and pride. Hester also creates art by means of Pearl’s opulent clothes, as an image of Jesus Christ, and her purpose is to affront and to rebel against the people.
Hester appears makes an appearance in front of the people when she is at the scaffold of the jail as an icon of both beauty and art. But also as the Virgin Mary carrying her...