Hester Prynne Essay, Research Paper
Nathaniel Hawthorne s The Scarlet Letter, a dark tale of sin and redemption,centers around the small Puritan community of Boston during the 17th century. In the midst of this small community is Hester Prynne. She is a woman that has defied the Puritans, taken the consequences and in the end conformed with the Puritans. It did,
however, take great effort to settle down and become a women of honor again.
Hester Prynne, through the eyes of the Puritans, is an extreme sinner. She has gone against the Puritan ways by committing Adultery. The Puritans believed that Hester was a lost soul that could only be saved by sincere and thorough repentance. For this
irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the rest of her life.
From the beginning, we see that Hester Prynne is a young and beautiful woman who has bought a child into the world with an unknown father. Hester, to the reader, is obviously a woman who has violated a strict social and religious code, but who has sinned in an affirmation of love and life. The Puritans do not take her feelings into account. They are people that take things as being right or wrong. Committing adultery is seen as wrong in the Bible, and therefore Puritans do not care of the circumstances. The Puritans
are grim, forbidding people. Nonetheless they have a degree of dignity and authority. They lack sympathy and discrimination. In their eyes all crimes are equal.
Hester is punished by the Puritan society by wearing the scarlet letter A on the bosom of her dress and standing on the weather darkened scaffold (p.234) for three hours. The Scaffold is a painful task to bear. The townspeople have gathered around to
gossip and stare at her. They yell horrid things at her. One matron screams At the very least, they should have put the brand of hot iron to her forehead. (p.59) Obviously, the Puritans did not believe that this punishment was cruel enough. The screams of this
matron showed just how unforgiving the Puritans were. Here one can see the difference between the Puritans and Hester. She was standing on scaffold shedding her honor because she had sinned in love. Although she had committed a sin, the reasons behind it were because she was truly in love. The Puritans were not understanding people. The letter A that she wore on her bosom also made Hester very different from the Puritans. The letter was beautiful. Hester, being a talented knitter, knitted the most beautiful looking A. One knew that she had put time into making the letter. The letter was also the
color scarlet. In the Puritan society were all clothing was gray, black, and white, the scarlet letter stood out. Hester Prynne was different from everyone else in this Boston town.
As she stood on the scaffold, Hester held her newborn Pearl. pearl was the outcome of her unfaithfulness. Pearl had been adequately named, for she was of extreme value to her mother. Hester s subjection to the crowd of Puritan onlookers is excruciating
to bear. One might think that it would have been better if Hester had left the town. Then she would not have had to endure such torture. Hester, however, knows that this is her town and she cannot leave. She knows that this small town is part of her identity. She
can only find comfort in holding her child close to her heart as she stands up on the scaffold. This action is a symbolic comparison between the child and the scarlet letter, implying that they are truly both intertwined.
After her horrible ordeal, and her release from prison, Hester and Pearl reside for the next few years in a hut by the sea. Hester tries to keep her distance from the Puritans. She does not want them to influence Pearl. Hester wants to raise Pearl, and find peace within herself. Pearl, however, is a very hard child to deal with. She is a devilish, impish terribly behaved child. This is very indifferent to the strict Puritan society. Here one can read more into the meaning of Pearls unconformity. Pearl has been said to be the scarlet letter come to life by Hawthorne many times throughout the novel. The scarlet letter, Pearl, is not in agreement with the Puritan codes, just as her mothers adultery wasn t either. Hester dressed young Pearl in the color Scarlet. Her dress matched the scarlet letter that Hester wore. Hester knew that Pearl was the scarlet letter, the outcome of her adultery and she would not let anyone forget it.
The Puritan society went as far as to say that the reason that Pearl was such a devilish child was due to her mother s failure to subdue her to the proper Puritan etiquette. Hester is not a Puritan. She did not believe in any of the Puritan ways. She is
only concerned with showing her daughter how to live her life honestly. This did not agree well with the Puritans. The unsuccessfully tried to take Pearl away from Hester. Hester had been deemed unfit to raise the child without the influence of genuine Puritan law and order. Pearl was not taken away and Hester went about trying to raise her child in honesty. This was one of the reasons that Hester did not leave the Puritan community. If she would have ran back to the new world, she would have not been true to herself. She also wore the letter A in stride because she knew that it was part of her. Hester, however, had a very hard time trying to raise Pearl. Pearl continuously mocked authority throughout the novel, a key characteristic of the imp-child s demeanor. She asked her mother would hurt her mother. She would ask about what minister Dimesdale held his hand over his heart. The mockery did not end there, however, and Pearl went about her retarded ways, throwing rocks at other children that looked at her the wrong way and
swearing at them. It pained Hester to watch her child go about the world as if possessed by an agent of Satan. Hester grew to love but yet loathe the ways of her child.
As time went by, Hester came more in contact with the Puritans of the town. She had come to conform with their belief that redemption would save her soul. She gave her life to God, by visiting the sick and sowing for the poor. She came to be revered by most members of the community because of her actions. The scarlet letter, for many had come to represent able, not adultery. Her strength to satisfy the needs of others and comfort them was a gift many towns people respected. As time went by, Hester was no longer
conforming to Puritan ways of redemption. She was doing kind things because it bought her pleasure and peace of mind. The word in the town was that the letter no longer stood for adultery and indeed stood for able. Hester became strong with the letter. She had let it be a part of her for many years while Pearl s father, minister Dimesdale, had covered it and it had gnawed at his soul. Hester was no longer hurt by the letter neither did she feel guilt.
Hester Prynne had committed a sin which the Puritans believed took her soul. In the end, however, her sin had become part of her