In the novel The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne undergoes both physical and emotional revelations. Hester is directly affected by the consequences of breaking moral and social codes of behaviour. The novel is a story of a young woman who commits adultery and stays strong when the community harasses her. She will not reveal the identity of her daughter Pearl’s father. At the end of the novel, Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl’s father, reveals to the townspeople that he is an unworthy minister for committing such a sin.
At the beginning of the novel, Hester is portrayed as a young and elegantly beautiful mother who is being punished for a horrid sin. The townspeople think of her as a haughty and wretched woman, and her punishment should be much harsher. “The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch-that is a truth” (Hawthorne, 38). When she comes out of the jailhouse, a beautifully sewn letter “A” is embroidered onto her breast. The townspeople see this as her taking light of her punishment.
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In the middle of the novel, Hester has become a more mature woman. Her passion, embroidery, and her compassion towards others become apparent. Also, she shows responsibility and courage by going to the governor’s house and asking to have custody of her daughter, Pearl. She defends her argument by stating ” I can teach my Pearl what I have learned from this!” (Hawthorne, 84). She now lives in a thatched cottage on the outskirts of town and has become ignored somewhat by the townspeople.
At the end of The Scarlet Letter, Hester is now a woman who is looked up to. The townspeople’s view on the meaning of the scarlet “A” has changed from “adultery” to “able”, because she is able to care for herself, others, and Pearl. This quote shows her ability to care for both Pearl and the community. “It was perceived, too, that while Hester never put forward even the humblest title to share in the world’s privileges-further than to breathe the common air, and earn daily bread for little Pearl and herself by the faithful labour of her hands…” (Hawthorne, 123). Her love for Dimmesdale also becomes very apparent towards the end of the novel because she and Dimmesdale plan on going to the Old World and live together happily. Hester has changed from a beautiful and naïve young woman to a mature and charismatic adult. She has learned the consequences of her sin, and even though they were very judgmental, she nonetheless gave back to the community. She ends up spending the years before her death back in the old cottage where she raised Pearl and is eventually buried next to Dimmesdale.
Hester Prynne is definitely a dynamic character. She has changed for the better by becoming more mature and compassionate and is an overall good person. She is also a very symbolic character, in the sense that she symbolizes the changes that people go through and the consequences of breaking moral and social codes of behaviour.
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