The line “I am a man more sinned against than sinning. ” from Act 3, Scene 2 of King Leer also relates to the Scarlet Letter. In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is a prime example of a character in the story who is more sinned against than sinning. Although Hester has committed a very weighted sin, adultery, the sins committed against her severely overshadow her own follies. Hester Prynne has committed adultery. In Puritan society, this is a great sin and wrong doing. Transgressors such as Hester are usually punished heavily.
But in Hester’s case, this punishment seems to have gone much too far, and then some. An example of this punishment can be found in chapter 2. “That Scarlet Letter so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom; It had the effect of a spell taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself. ” The scarlet letter itself, the first key piece to her punishment, was very degrading. Not only was it a constant reminder given to her by the people of the town, but it isolated Hester from the rest of society for the rest of her life.
The rest of Puritan society has sinned against her by degrading her to very low levels and forcing her to remain there for the remainder of her life. Another example of how Puritan society has sinned against her is that she has not even the slightest glimmer of hope involving repentance or forgiveness. The townspeople have permanently branded her with the letter that has essentially become who she is. Though she cannot take back her great sin, she has been sinned against because she cannot even hope for forgiveness. Humility is also a huge part of Puritan punishment also seen in chapter 2 in the marketplace. It was no great distance in those days from the prison door to the market place. Measured by the prisoner’s experience however it might be reckoned a journey of some length; for haughty as her demeanor was, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon. ” A short walk through the crowd from the prison to the marketplace may seem like an easy trek for any person other than Hester. But for a great sinner, of whom all eyes are locked upon her, it may seem like the longest walk of her life.
The humiliation aspect of the Puritan way of punishment is the part where it goes too far. Putting a letter on Hester’s gown is one thing, but milking it for everything it’s worth is not justifiable. For Hester Prynne, this punishment and embarrassment may seem unbearable. At this point she has been ridiculed, hated, talked about, and put down. Yes, we can argue that Hester’s sin was a significant one and deserving of punishment. It is. But, the punishment has gone way too far and is unjustified. The sin against Hester has now eclipsed the original sin that gave her the letter. Thus, Hester Prynne is more sinned against than sinner.