Hester Prynne is a very well recognized character in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. She is a character about whom much gas been written such as, Toward Hester Prynn, by David Reynolds, and The Scarlet A, Aboriginal and Awesome, by Kristin Herzog. Reynold’s essay dealt with Hester as a heroine, who is an artistic combination of disparate female types. Herzog’s essay dealt with the idea that Hester is both wild and passionate, as well as, caring, conservative, and alien.
Towards Hester Prynne, by David Reynolds, expressed Hester as a heroine composed of many different stereotypes of females from the time period Hawthorne was writing. Hawthorne created some of the most skeptical and politically uncommitted characters in pre-civil war history. Reynolds went on to say, His [Hawthorne’s] career illustrates the success of an especially responsive author in gathering together disparate female types and recombining them artistically so that they become crucial elements of the rhetorical and artistic construct of his fiction (Reynolds 179). Hawthorne used ironies of fallen women and female criminals to achieve the perfect combination of different types of heroines.
His heroines are equipped to expel wrongs against their sex bringing about an awareness of both the rights and wrongs of women. Hester is a compound of many popular stereotypes rich in the thoughts of the time …portrayed as a fallen woman whose honest sinfulness is found preferable to the future corruption of the reverend (Reynolds 183). Hester was described by Reynolds as a feminist criminal bound in an iron link of mutual crime (Reynolds 183). According to Reynolds, Hawthorne was trying to have his culture’s darkest stereotypes absorbed into the character of Hester and rescue them from noisy politics by reinterpreting them in Puritan terms and fusing them with the moral exemplar.
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Kristin Herzog had a somewhat different view of Hester in The Scarlet A, Aboriginal and Awesome. She described Hester as both wild and passionate, and caring, conservative, and alien. Herzog stated that The Scarlet Letter is a story set at the rough edge of civilization. Hester is as much an outcast as any Quaker in the Puritan colony and she takes the colony’s abuse laid upon her with a Quaker’s dignity. Herzog described Hester’s Aboriginal characteristics as caring and conservative. This aspect of Hester’s femininity is not the only trait, however, which separates her from the Puritan women around her. She is also …an alien with a touch of the exotic (Herzog). These characteristics have been further strengthened by social isolation causing her attitude to grow out of her native courage and activity. The awesome side of Hester is expressed as passionate and impulsive and yet showing a natural dignity and force of character (Herzog). She was also described as inwardly passionate and outwardly composed, of subhuman nature, a typical romantic heroine.
Hester is a very complex character that represents many different things to different people. These are two different interpretations of the same character that are different but have certain similarities. Both Herzog’s and Reynold’s essays were pretty good except I thought them to be long-winded and avoiding the subject Hester. Granted, some background information is needed to emphasize or explain the points being made, but some of the ideas I felt were not needed. Both authors had similar ideas about the character of Hester, a feminist heroine who is composed of many different stereotypes of the time period in which the novel takes place.
I agree with the descriptions of the authors in their opinions of Hester. In the novel Hester is a typical housewife, staying home and taking care of the kids, except for the letter she has to wear and deal with from day today. She was also stereotyped as a passive voice in both of her relationships: one with the reverend and one with Chillingworth. Chillingworth controlled her to keep his identity a secret and Dimsdale was in enough control to keep Hester from telling that he was her partner in sin. These are both examples of common stereotypes of women during the pre-civil war period.
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