Analysis of crime and punishment based on Nathaniel’s “The Scarlet

Free essays 0 Comments


Analysisof crime and punishment based on Nathaniel’s “The ScarletLetter”, Poe’s “The Raven”, and Twain’s “Tom Sawyer.”

Analysisof Crime and Punishment in Three Novels

Manywriters have explored the issues surrounding crime and punishment andhow they uphold or distort justice in the society. Some of the earlywriters who touched on this issue are Nathaniel Hawthorne in hisfamous story “The Scarlet Letter”, Edgar Allan Poe in “TheRaven”, and Mark Twain in his novel “Tom Sawyer.” During thisera (mid 18thcentury) when these works were composed, societies had in placevarious forms of punishment for crimes and ensuring people adhered tothe set social norms and practices. However, not all penaltiesencouraged justice. As a matter of fact, in some societies, some formof punishments distorted the meaning of justice. This essay aims todiscuss the representation of crime and punishments and how theyupheld or troubled justice based on these three literary works.

TheScarlet is a story primarily based on crime, sin and punishment.Hester tells her story as a woman who faces humiliation and mockeryas a result of braking spiritual law by committing adultery in asociety that is focused on upholding the authority of law (Hawthorne,2013).Hester refuses to disclose the father of her child and hence isforced to wear the letter as a form of punishment, which makes herlose her individuality and identity. Furthermore, she becomes areference figure, which the preachers and moralist always point whendescribing sins and a woman’s weakness and sinful passion. Thenarrator owns up to her mistakes and devotes her life raising herchild and helping people to get accepted again by her society.However, it is clear that the society does not accept her because,after her death, she shares a single tomb with Dimmesdaland bearing ascarlet &quotA.&quot

Hawthornerepresents’punishment in this story is as being irrational and incapable ofachieving justice (2013). The main reason people are punished is toreflect upon their sins and make efforts to correct their badbehavior. For justice to prevail, the offender must receive justpunishment for the offense committed. However, In the Scarlet Letter,the punishment that Hester receives for adultery and secrecy isunjust. The form of punishment that this woman gets for her sinsdestroys her identity in the whole society. Additionally, justicedoes not prevail in this society because even after owning up hermistakes and serving her punishment, Hester is never accepted by thePuritan community. Punishment in this story seems to trouble justicebecause the Puritan society seems not to believe it as a way ofreforming people. This society firmly believes that redemption andforgiveness are God`s work and not any system of law.

The“Raven” by Edgar Poe (2013) is a story about his lost loveLenore, and the punishment he is getting for what he did to her.After her demise, Lenore comes back in the form of a raven andpunishes her lover for his sins. Throughout the story, it is onlyspeculation that Poe killed Lenore, but there is more than enoughevidence that he did. Poe is so ridden with guilt that he istormented by her images&quot the Raven&quot during the night.Furthermore, the raven only speaks one word &quotnevermore` meaningthat he is getting punished for something wrong he did to her andwill not have a chance to do it again. Poe`s punishment isimmortality, explaining why he will never see Lenore again. Shedrives him into lunacy and the pain that he will remain abandoned andinsane for the rest of his life is her revenge.

Inthis story, punishment is represented as a thing of the next world.Lenore can punish his lover after she dies. One wonders why she didnot punish Poe while she was alive. Furthermore, the reader is leftwondering what the society is doing to investigate the death ofLenore and ensure justice is achieved. The representation of crimeand punishment in this story does not support justice because Lenoreis left to punish her offender all by herself after her demise.

Atthe beginning of the story Tom Sawyer by Twain (2013), Tom is theleader of all odd and dangerous childhood games. Most are the timesthat Tom finds himself in predicaments in which he must put hisfriends’ concerns above his. Tom’s adventures to Jackson’sIsland and McDougal’s Cave symbolically take him from the society.This symbolical removal takes him from the social constraints of thesociety and helps him mature up and become a responsible and areliable adult for his community.

Twainridicules and criticizes social institutions such as the law forimplementing social standards and form of punishment that fail touphold justice. According to Twain, in the same way, a child mightmake foolish mistakes, social institutions may also make mistakes ofenforcing law and punishment that trouble justice (2013). Thechildhood misconduct by Tom represents his efforts to rebel againstunnecessary societal rules and norms. Tom is only able to mature andbecome responsible after stepping out of the unfair social practicesand punishment adored by his community. Twain paints the society`scriminal and punishment systems as an obstacle that hinders peoplefrom understanding good behavior and meaning of justice.


Fromthe essay, it is evident during the era these novels were written,crime and punishment were primarily based on social norms thattroubled instead of upholding justice. In the Scarlet Letter, Hestergets an unfair punishment that makes lose her individuality andidentity. The Raven by Poe shows that the society back then lackedgood law institutions that would ensure offenders faced justice fortheir sins. In this story, Lenore is only able to punish his loverfor his wrongdoing after her death by tormenting him. Finally, TomSawyer by Twain represents social institutions that have enforcedimproper universal practices and rules that are hindering people frombeing responsible and understanding the role of such institutions inachieving justice.


Hawthorne,N. (2001). TheScarlet Letter: 1850.Infomotions, Incorporated.

Poe,E. A. (2013). EdgarAllan Poe: Complete Tales &amp Poems(Vol. 13). Top Five Books LLC.

Twain,M. (2013). TheAdventures of Tom Sawyer.Simon and Schuster.