Scarlet Letter Hester Essay

This essay has a total of 1193 words and 10 pages.

Scarlet Letter Hester



The character of Hester Prynne changed significantly throughout the novel

“The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester Prynne, through the eyes

of the Puritans, is an extreme sinner; she has gone against the Puritan ways,

committing adultery. For this irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol

of shame for the rest of her life. However, the Romantic philosophies of

Hawthorne put down the Puritanic beliefs. She is a beautiful, young woman who

has sinned, but is forgiven. Hawthorne portrays Hester as "divine maternity"

and she can do no wrong. Not only Hester, but the physical scarlet letter, a

Puritanical sign of disownment, is shown through the author's tone and diction

as a beautiful, gold and colorful piece.

From the beginning, we see that Hester Prynne is a young and beautiful woman

who has brought a child into the world with an unknown father. She is

punished by Puritan society by wearing the scarlet letter A on the bosom of

her dress and standing on the scaffold for three hours. Her hair is a glossy

brown and her eyes deep-set, and black, her attire is rich, carefully

caressing her slender figure. The scaffold is a painful task to bear; the

townspeople gathered around to gossip and stare at Hester and her newborn

child, whom she suitably named Pearl, named because of her extreme value to

her mother. In the disorder of faces in the crowd, young Hester Prynne sees

the face of a man she once was fiercely familiar with, whom we later learn is

her true husband, Roger Chillingworth. Her subjection to the crowd of Puritan

onlookers is excruciating to bear, and Hester holds the child to her heart, a

symbolic comparison between the child and the scarlet letter, implying that

they are truly both intertwined.

Prynne is imprisoned with her child, both of whom are emotionally and

physically exhausted from the punishment at the scaffold. The husband, Roger

Chillingworth, passes by and is commissioned to be the physician to the two,

and remedy them of their sicknesses. She is surprised he had come at such a

time where she was at a point of such horrendous turmoil. He demands that she

cannot reveal his identity, yet he also wishes to know the identity of her

lover, the father of the child. She refuses to tell him. Later in the novel,

we discover that Arthur Dimmesdale is the confidential lover.

Hester is released from her cell, after which she resides for the next few

years in a hut by the sea. Her child, Pearl, is a devilish, impish, terribly

behaved child, that is indifferent to the strict Puritan society. Pearl is a

pain to please, having her way all the time because of her mother’s failure to

subdue her to the proper Puritan etiquette. Hester knits and weaves for the

townspeople, except for weddings, which people believe would cause misfortune

and unrest in their marriage. They knew that the Seventh Commandment was

“thou shalt not commit adultery” and they stuck by those rules. The Puritans

were truly a people governed by God.

The novel explains that the Governors repeatedly attempt to take the child

away from Hester, as she has been deemed unfit to raise the child without the

influence of genuine Puritan law and order. These attempts are failed, for

Arthur Dimmesdale, the father and minister of Hester Prynne, insists that the

child is a bond, a necessity of the young woman who has nothing if she does

not have the child. Another influence upon Hester is Mistress Ann Hibbens,

who is reputed to be a witch throughout the community. When Hibbens asks

Hester to join her in the forest at night to sign the Black Man’s book with

her own blood, she insists that she cannot, but if her little Pearl would be

taken away, she would gladly join the “witch-lady” in the forest that night,

and sign the great book in her own blood!

Pearl continuously mocks authority in the novel, a key characteristic of the

imp-child’s demeanor. She asks stupid questions that she already knows the
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