Hester Prynne, Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper
Nathaniel Hawthorne s novel of sin and forgiveness, The Scarlet Letter, takes a look at the life of a Puritan women named Hester Prynne. Hester is a scorned woman, having borne a child who can claim no father, in a corrupt and menaced society. Thought the book, the three most prominent traits of Mistress Hester Prynne are her pride, bravery, and trustworthiness.
Hester s pride is what sustains her through the years. From the beginning Hester tries to hide her shame by depicting the letter as a thing of beauty. She decorates and embroiders it until it becomes nothing more than a decorative symbol. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold threads, appeared the letter A it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel she wore (pg. 57). Hester still acknowledges her shame, when she, In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hid another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors (pg. 110). Hester s pride, however, allows her neither option. She stays in Boston, faces the punishment for her sin, and works to improve her life.
Without her bravery, she might have lost both Pearl and her own self-respect. Her bravery shines through when she is patronized in front of the town. With almost a serene deportment, therefore, Hester Prynne passed through this portion of her ordeal, and came to a sort of scaffold (pg. 60). She uses much of her bravery to protect her daughter Pearl. This bravery is tested when Governor Bellingham, following public option, tries to declare Hester as an unfit mother. Using false accusations, he tries to manipulate Pearl into denouncing false beliefs. It is only when Hester speaks the truth, that he withdraws his claims. God gave her into my keeping I will not give her up (pg. 122)! Hester, feeling that she has been scrutinized, forsakes her vow to stay in Boston and to repent her sins. When the opportunity comes, she seizes Arthur Dimmesdale and convinces him to escape to England with her. Then there is the broad pathway of the sea! It has brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural village or in vast London thou wouldst be beyond his power and knowledge (pg. 217).
Through the courts of the novel, Hester proves herself able to keep numerous secrets. She refuses to reveal the name of Pearl s father even when questioned by the Reverend Wilson. She knows that if she does not name the father, her innocent daughter will forever be a mark of sin, but to Hester the promise she took upon Dimmesdale is too important to sacrifice. Hester also consents to hide the truth about Chillingworth s true identity. When he visits Hester in her cell and requests that she not reveal who he really is, Breathe no thy secret, above all to the man thou wottest of I will keep thy secret, as I have (pg. 28). She only disavows this one secret in fear of Dimmesdale s life.
Hester Prynne s unique traits allow her to become an individual. She used this individualism towards goals that she wished to accomplish. Her pride helped her over come her shame, her bravery helped her overcome scrutiny, and her loyalty made her self-aware. All of these characteristics helped abolish the Scarlet Letter and made her a woman, true to herself.