The Scarlet Letter

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade September 2001

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The phrase, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", is certainly true in this case. Hester was looked down upon severely because of her past, but most of all, because of her appearance. She chose, as a sign of her repentance, to wear plain clothing, mask her beauty and sport a bright red A with golden trim. The entire community knew what this A meant, and if someone didn't, a citizen would get to them before Hester to sway their views of this poor woman. Regardless of the painful truth of her past, Hester's heart remained kind. She held no feelings of hate or contempt for the people who once rebuked her during her public punishment. Day after day she received comment after comment about what a horrible person she was, and how she was such a horrible influence on everyone. Hester, for some reason, stayed good hearted as she continued to try to help people.

She was unquestionably the person in this book whose appearance was the only thing people saw. The only person who really knew what was inside her heart was her secret lover, Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester Prynne was not only criticized for her one single mistake, but she was given a horrible reputation, as if she had a history of mass murders. This shows the Puritan's intolerant and strict views. Though Hester was given work, she was not forgiven by anyone, and, up until her return from England, was snubbed by everyone. This was a long lasting punishment for a hard working, placid woman.

The truth of the matter lies just there: behind the matter. We have seen three examples that prove that what you see is not always what you get. If the people of Boston had looked beyond outward appearance, into the heart of the people of the town, they would have seen something, which, in many cases, would have completely contradicted their previous beliefs. What they found to be true was in fact, just the opposite. Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale were thought to be good, helpful people, when in truth they had dark secrets, or evil motives. Hester Prynne was seen only for her past mistake, and held the label that she was evil. The truth to this is that she was not evil in any way. She made a mistake, like everyone has, only hers was looked upon differently in the times. When we look at something or someone, we cannot tell what is in their heart, or even in their mind. Appearance does not hold a candle to reality.