The Scarlet Letter And The Bean Trees

Essay, Research Paper

The Scarlet Letter and The Bean Trees

Roles of the Protagonists

In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, both authors cast their protagonist as a single, unwed mother. Though the time and setting that they are put into are very different and greatly effects the way the character is portrayed, there are many similarities between the two main characters.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, the main character, is scorned and ridiculed because of her secret and unjustified affair with Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister of the Puritan community. The result of Hester?s sin is her daughter, Pearl. Not until the end of the novel does Hester reveal her child?s father. When the magistrates ask Hester to tell of her fellow sinner, Hester replies ?Never! It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!? By doing this we can see how Hester is a woman full of strength and power. Despite what has happened to her, she still continues on with her life and though she may show shame and despondency on the outside, inside she feels that she must go on. She feels that she must continue for Pearl. Also, but enduring Dimmesdale?s wrath, Hester shows even more courage, but she also reveals kindness and thought. Because of Dimmesdale?s position in society, Hester refuses to give away his name. She thinks of what could happen to him and how the minister of the community would be looked upon if what he did was unveiled. Hester also presents a sense of independence in the book. In spite of the consequences, she still manages to live, although it?s on the outskirts of the community, and to take on the responsibility of Pearl. When she finally decides the she needs her total freedom, she rips off the scarlet letter and says, ?Let us not look back. The past is gone! Wherefore should we linger upon it now? See! With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!? With this action, Hester is trying to rid herself of the past. She wants to forget everything that has happened and continue on with her life. This, most of anything in the book, shows Hester?s main qualities – strength, independence, and courage.

After reading The Bean Trees, I have come to notice that Hester and Taylor, the main character in the story, are alike in many ways. Marietta, as she was once called, grew up in Kentucky with only two things in mind for when she grew up. The first one was to avoid getting pregnant, and the second one is to get away. Now right off the bat, it seems as if there could be no differences between Taylor and Hester. One, because Hester didn?t try to avoid getting pregnant and two, because after all that Hester went through, she didn?t try to escape it, only till the very end. But there are many similarities between the two. They are just deeper within. Like Hester, Taylor is a very independent person. She took off on her own, hoping to land someplace safe where she could make a new living. And that?s exactly what happened. But along the way she encountered some obstacles. She is given a baby, not that she wanted it, but she had no other choice but to take it. To be able to take on the responsibility of a child shows how strong Taylor is. Most people in the same situation wouldn?t have accepted the child. Taylor names the baby Turtle. Taylor has gone from living with her mother, to being on the road by herself and now is on the road with a child. It seems as if the road has many more bumps than it did when she first started. Next she has to find a place to live, which she does. But this is also and impediment because there is always the money issue. Now that she has a child to take care of, Taylor needs to get a job. Also, towards the end of the book, Taylor is on the brink of getting Turtle taken away from her due to child services. On account of everything that has happened to her, Taylor says, ?I thought I?d had a pretty hard life. But I keep finding out that life can be hard in ways I never knew about.? Even though everything that Taylor might have gone through was hard, she still had the strength and courage to go on, just like Hester had the courage to stay in the Puritan community and face all her obstacles as well. Taylor believes that everything happens for a reason. She says, ?For me, even bad things bring good luck.? What she means is that all the obstacles that may have affected her new life actually turned out to lead to something even better than she expected. This, in a way, was also the case with Hester. Though Pearl was a constant reminder of the sin Hester committed, she was also Hester?s pride and joy. She was really the only thing that she had left and she was happy about that.

Hester Prynne was placed in a setting long before ours today and even long before that of Taylor Greer?s in The Bean Trees. In Puritan society, sin was forbidden. When Hester had Pearl, she lived ignominy for the rest of her life. But if Hester were placed into the setting of Taylor, her sin would?ve been condoned. To have an affair in these days is a sin, but it is only between you and the person that you hurt, not the whole community. And if Taylor were placed into the times of Hester, just accepting a child that?s not yours, even though she didn?t have it herself, would have been a sin. The setting affects the characters, their actions, and the actions of others to a great extent.


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