The Scarlet Letter Theme Essay

Essay by blahme28 December 2008

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlett Letter Hester Prynne faces myriad obstacles due to harsh Puritan punishment which helped craft her into a stronger woman. She was given a scarlet letter from the community to alienate her from the rest society. The society built by the Puritans, in settling the New World, was stern and repressive, no place for a vibrant, healthy woman with a self esteem that could not be destroyed by a constant public humiliation. Hester is forced to wear the scarlet letter "A" which initially stood for adulteress. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel Hester Prynne grows from a victim of Puritan punishment to a strong, decisive woman who is eventually admired by the community.

Hester Prynne makes a magnificent transformation throughout the novel. Her transformation begins at the start of the novel when Hester comes to the New World and into the Puritan society. She first comes out of the jail due to the crime she has committed of adultery where she bearing her love child, Pearl and wearing a scarlet "A" on her chest to keep as a reminder of her sin.

Many of the townspeople in the community talked about her every time they saw her because they all knew of her crime. For example, one person said "…the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to hear that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation" (Hawthorne 47). The "A" Hester wore on her chest made sure that she would be one who was alienated from the rest of society. Hester paid no mind to these people seeing as she was able to overcome the primary meaning of her "A". Hester's scarlet "A" meaning soon changed from adulteress to able. She was able to support her daughter Pearl because of her impressive needle work that she sold. At this point she was somewhat accepted by society. Hawthorne states that, "She possessed an art that sufficed, even in a land that afforded comparatively little scope for its exercise, to supply food for her thriving infant and herself" (Hawthorne 75). Hester's journey was a long one however; she was able to go from adulteress to able, and now to angel. Hester knew that she would not always be known as an adulterous and because of that she was able to become an angelic figure within society. During the third scaffold scene Hester is speaking with Dimmesdale in which she says to him, "Thou shalt not go alone!" (Hawthorne 187). This shows that she has become this angelic figure in the story because she is showing her compassion towards Dimmesdale and how she believes that she can somehow save him from himself.

Throughout The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne shows that she is a strong individual through various ways. Hester took all the bad things that the community said about her and proved to them what strong and significant person she was. They would say things like, "If the hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such sentence as the worshipful magistrates have awarded?" (Hawthorne 47). Hester did not let these statements get to her, she persevered through it all. Hester also had the capability to support Pearl by herself through her needle work for governor and people in the society by herself. Hawthorne states, "…to the mansion of Governor Bellingham, with a pair of gloves which she had fringed and embroidered to his order, and which were to be worn on some great occasion of state…" (Hawthorne 92). This showed how she was able to hold her own as a human being in a society where she was supposed to be punished for her sins. Her strength led her to great lengths. For example, when she goes back to the New World after leaving to Europe with Pearl she offered to give advice and counseling to women in the community. Hester was a woman of much independence which helped develop her strength as a person.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter shows Hester Prynne as an individual woman who builds her strength throughout the novel. Hester's scarlet "A" was meant to serve as a constant reminder of the adultery she committed. However, she persevered through the sin and became this woman who was unable to be solely identified through a single mistake. Her strength developed as she turned from an adulteress, to an able woman, to an angelic figure in society. She used her self-motivation to rise from the occasion and become a stronger woman than she ever had been.

BibliographyHawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor, Reed & Fields, 1850; Bartleby.com, 1999