Texas Wesleyan Law Review

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This Comment illuminates the shaming issue from a "law in literature"" 7 standpoint since, through literature, contextualization and empathy can be best understood. "Literature is instructive to lawyers and scholars because it leads away from a view of law as formal, mechanized rule-making, and leads instead toward all the possibilities, probabilities, ambiguities and doubts that life possesses." More specifically, through analyzing the conditions that existed in Hawthorne's Salem at the close of the Seventeenth century, and contrasting them with conditions in America at the beginning of the Twenty-first century, this Comment exposes the flaws inherent in a modern scarlet letter sentence. Part I addresses the legal world of shame, using illustrative examples from The Scarlet Letter. First, Part I traces the movement from theocracy to democracy to show why shaming historically declined as a form of punishment. Second, the shaming definition is expanded focusing on two divergent schools of thought on what constitutes an effective shaming. Third, the modern and postmodern viability of shame punishment is questioned. Part I concludes by developing a shame profile and addressing specific concerns that arise as a result of legal shaming. Part II addresses the psychological world of shame by examining the dangers of delving into the depths of the human psyche. Additionally, Part II questions the role of the judiciary in the psychological realm, and examines the distinction between shame and guilt. Part III addresses Hester Prynne's shaming in The Scarlet Letter and analogizes the psychological effects of shame upon Hester Prynne,20 her daughter Pearl, and Reverend Dimmesdale to the modern psychological literature of shame, demonstrating that the literary world can inform the legal world that modern shaming is troublesome and inappropriate. This Comment concludes with the suggestion that shaming, although potentially effective, is a politically motivated, media- driven tactic that avoids confronting the very real psychological and social consequences inherent in a modern scarlet letter sentence.



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