as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself.

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Qi qi

New Member
hello guys,
recently,i have been reading The Scarlet Letter;
i have problem to understand this sentence:
“On the other hand, a penalty which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself. ”

“a penalty” means the indifference of standbys;
my question is: how to understand “be invested with ” in this sentence?
and what‘s the meaning of “as stern as the punishment of death itself”?

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    To begin, "a penalty" has nothing to do with "indifference" of bystanders (not standbys). The penalty was shame and scorn, at the very least,, not indifference. Hawthorne is saying that the Puritans of the day took their penalties with great seriousness, so that they treated a penalty like the shaming of Hester Pryne (by making her wear a letter A and scorning and isolating her) as seriously as if it were a death sentence. By comparison, in the time contemporary with Hawthorne - "our days" - this would involve mockery and ridicule. Hope this helps and doesn't contain too many spoilers about the plot.
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