Make the sinners suffer
A couple of years back I modernised and edited Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. It's on the site and you can download it for free—see the Home Page. It's too great a book not to read but the original doesn't read as easily for us as it did for people back when Hawthorne wrote it. I removed some material and added some but the material I added was the kind of thing Hawthorne was driving at; so I have kept faith with his intention. He had a profound insight into the minds and lives of people and the piece that follows makes that clear. The sinner Hester Prynne is being led to the pillory and the scene speaks for itself. Ah Sin, to hell with you!
She reached the place. It was a sort of raised platform at the western end of the market area and almost under the eaves of Boston's earliest church; at first glance it seemed as if it were a part of the church structure. This raised platform was part of a punishing machine though it has been two or three generations since such a thing has been used. It stands now only as a reminder of the time when people thought it was the perfect instrument for promoting good citizenship—the way the French revolutionaries viewed the guillotine. On the platform stood the pillory. The pillory! Perfectly suited for the purpose. It's characteristic of those that have behaved shamefully to want to hide their faces from the public's eyes. They walk with their heads down or cover their faces with their hands. They don't want to see or be seen. But the pillory was deliberately designed to hold the head in one place and in one position—face forward. In fact, the face is the only thing really to be seen, certainly the only thing to take the spectator's eye. And isolating the face from the rest of the body forces the entire personality into the face so that the gaping, wondering and perhaps insulting and cruel public can look right down into the shamed soul of the sinner. Modesty is stripped away and there's no hiding. There's no outrage more flagrant and crass against the very person of a sinner than to deprive him of the power to hide his self-shamed face! This is the essence of cruel punishment made glaringly public by this instrument of wood and iron. They aren't used today but there's more than one way to make a public exhibition of a sinner.
We only need to keep spreading their shame and they go to work or worship or the market—wherever they go—slyly gaped at, knowing eyes strip away sincerity and call it hypocrisy. "She doesn't know that I know she's the one that [...]. Listen to her, look at her, you'd think butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."
Pilloried without the pillory.
And since there are always those that hear the story for the first time there's an unending stream of new gawkers. Bravo, courageous pillory-builders, we've got to keep these sinners before the eyes of the entire populace and it's even more exquisite when they don't know that knowing eyes are weighing them up. Later, when they learn that they've been a spectacle, they'll feel the pain beyond belief. They must be taught that the way of the transgressor is hard and if it doesn't lookhard to us then we must make it hard.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.