Of all the characters in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, the protagonist, is the strongest and most courageous. But, that is not to say that she is unsusceptible to change. Over the course of the novel, Hester remains unchanged in some areas, such as strength and honesty, but her beauty and social status vary greatly.
One trait that defines Hester throughout the novel is strength. Strength in the mind and also in the heart is what makes Hester a striking person in a gloomy society. This strength was inside of her all along, but it is the scarlet letter that eventually brings it to our attention. During the first scaffold scene, Nathaniel Hawthorne notes her "natural dignity and force of character." Her poise under scrutiny is remarkable during this significant scene. Her might is also evident in her dealings with both her husband, Roger Chillingworth, and also her lover, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale.
Hester repeatedly denies Chillingworth the satisfaction of knowing her fellow sinner. And in the forest scene, Dimmesdale acknowledges that she has the strength he lacks and he calls on her help in his time of need. Also, she shows honesty by openly recognizing her sin, unlike Dimmesdale who hides and is weakened. Hester is beautiful not only on the inside, but also physically attractive on the outside.
Hester's corporal beauty is first mentioned during the original scaffold scene, when she is described as a tall young woman with a "figure of perfect elegance on a large scale." Her most imposing feature is her elegant glossy hair, which is let loose and blows freely in the wind. Seven years after her punishment for her sin though, that beauty is gone. Her glossy hair is hidden under a cap and her warmth is diminished, buried under the elaborate...