Hester Prynne is the protagonist of The Scarlet Letter. She is described as a youthful, beautiful and dignified woman. In the starting of this story, Hester is represented as a sinner, a piece of shame for society. When she walks to the scaffold from the prison, she holds her head high and remains in full public view without shedding a tear. Her spirit is also reflected in the way she takes up her punishment and carries the scarlet letter. Her artistic trait is revealed in the way she decorates the scarlet letter with gold thread. Instead of carrying it as a symbol of shame she boldly carries it on her bosom.
Hester’s strength of character is well represented in the way she faces “crab nature” people. She doesn’t duck her head or act violently to distract herself from the viewers. But the weakness of her character is revealed in the private vent of her grief. She completely breaks down after her return to the prison, so much that the little Pearl feels her mother’s grief and pain. But unfortunately, her silent suffering eventually fails to gain the sympathy of the Puritan society.
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Through her life of suffering, she emerges a stronger person, better able to handle life’s agonizing moments. She confides her world to her daughter. Hester, however, does what she can for charitable causes. Her unflinching love for her lover is reflected, when she hides his identity just to protect his pride and respect. She emerges as a selfless lover as she never expects her mate to accept his sin in public and instead she accepts her fate without any sign of regret or criticism.
Even after such a scene of embarrassment Hester remains strong and builds her inner talent to the source of income. Hester’s selflessness is also reflected in the services that she renders to the poor, needy and the sick. Out of the entire earning she only uses a part of it for her daughter’s clothes and the rest goes for charity. Hester is a woman full of motherly love that she showers on Pearl. It is her love and concern for Pearl that makes her feel alive and earn for her daughter’s existence than her own. Hester is not a vengeful person as she never tries to make her lover feel guilty.
Neither does she harbour any malice towards Chillingworth, as she promises to never reveal his identity. Hester is also a woman of strong principles. She refuses to reveal the identity of Pearl’s father even though she was compelled in public. In fact, in all her actions, Hester is presented as a woman with strong values except for her one passionate sin of adultery.
On the other hand, Chillingworth is an old, ugly and deformed husband of Hester Prynne. He is presented as a scholar and physician, who has travelled to distant places. While he develops from a kind scholar into an obsessed fiend, he is less of a character and more of a symbol of doing the devil’s bidding. His lack of sensitivity is shown in his choosing such a young, naive, and beautiful woman as his bride even though he knew that she never loved him and probably never would. His lack of chivalry is seen when he abandons his wife to dwell on her own and he himself travels around the world. It is obvious that a loving relationship has never existed between Hester and Chillingworth.
He is a selfish lover, as he expects Hester Prynne to be loyal to him even after two years of abundance. Chillingworth’s unsympathetic and shameful nature is reflected in his choice of hiding his identity. His vengefulness trait is seen when he voices out and pressurizes Hester to reveal her mate’s identity. He repeats the line “ he will be known” three times, which refers to bible text, a spell repeated three times to make something happen ( good or bad).
One can smell his hatred in the way he asks Hester about her lover in jail as though if he finds who the fellow sinner is, he would kill him. Chillingworth is a malevolent and vicious man but he still is concerned for Hester as he doesn’t harm her even though he had a major chance to do so. Even though he is presented as an evil character, his agony and sense of revenge is well justified.
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