The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne


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
answer to, like, "Mother, did you ever sign the black man's book", and,"Why
does the minister Dimmesdale hold his hand over his heart?" The mockery does
not end there, however, and Pearl goes on about her retarded ways, throwing
rocks at other children that look at her the wrong way and swearing at them.
It pains Hester to watch her child go about the world as if possessed by an
agent of Satan, and she both loves, and in some ways, loathes the child.
 When Chillingworth is at the beach picking up plants for formulas to cure
Dimmesdale, who is deteriorating in health, he talk to Hester, who hates him
deeply for what he has done to Dimmesdale over the last few years. He
mentions that the magistrates may let her remove the scarlet letter, but she
declines. She now she is revered and respected by most members of the
community because of the letter upon her bosom, for to many it represents
able, and not adultery. Her strength to satisfy the needs of others and
comfort them is a gift that many of the townspeople respect, and the word in
town is that the letter does indeed stand for able. Hester is strong with her
letter, having it be a part of her for so many years, while Arthur has
concealed his letter upon his chest, which gnawed out from his inner soul.
 Later in the novel, when Chillingworth is at his height of having his way
with Dimmesdale, the weakened minister, Hester and Arthur meet in the forest
to discuss their future. Here in the forest, Hester removes the scarlet
letter, and drops it on the ground. She then removes her cap, letting her
beautiful, glossy brown hair shine in the rays of the forest sunlight. Here,
Hester Prynne has made a significant change from her somber, drab appearance,
to her beauty of days long passed. However, after feeling rejuvenated, she is
disappointed to see that her own child, Pearl, will not recognize her change,
and, demands that her mother bind the "badge of sin" back upon her bosom. She
then goes back to business, telling her beloved Arthur that she will set sail
with him and Pearl to the Old Country in after the Election Day sermon, which
Dimmesdale is to speak at.
 Soon enough, however, the drama unfolds as Chillingworth discovers that the
trio are boarding a boat across the sea after the Election Day, and he books
himself up to travel with them, since he is obsessed with torturing
Dimmesdale. Then, the big day came, and Hester was gleaming with joy in
anticipation of a new life without ridicule or guilt. After preaching a
powerful sermon, the good minister was walking along with the crowd, when he
felt the weight of an overbearing guilt upon his shoulders; a power that he
had felt before had grown immensely domineering upon his frail frame. Hester
comforted him to the scaffold, and stuck by him to the end, as he admitted his
sin of adultery, which shocked the people of Boston. , leaving many with their
jaws dropped.
 After Pearl got married, and Chillingworth was long dead, Hester Prynne
returned to Boston to recollect and to repent. The townspeople came to her,
some staring in awe, some revering her presence. She had changed so much
after she had taken the first step onto the Boston scaffold. After death, she
was buried near Dimmesdale. Hester Prynne was truly an able women.

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