Hester Prynne Personal Standards Versus Society Essay

Length: 3 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Literature - American Type: Essay Paper: #87570209
Excerpt from Essay :

Hester Prynne: Courage and Integrity Incarnate

The novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts the struggle of Hester Prynne in attempting to live by the standards set by her own internal guidelines. This creates a great deal of conflict as she is forced to confront the standards set by the Puritan society of Colonial America for what is considered decent behavior. At the opening of the book, so much has already happened: Hester Prynne’s husband (Roger Chillingworth) was shipwrecked and captured by native people—many thought he had unfortunately perished. The town’s religious leader Arthur Dimmesdale offers Hester an understanding ear and shoulder to cry on, but this leads to an affair that results in the birth of Hester’s daughter Pearl, born out of wedlock. Thus, it is very revelatory about these townspeople that they offer Hester very little understanding for the ways that she has suffered. Instead she is just condemned and meant to be humiliated for the rest of her life with a red letter A attached to the front of her dress. Hawthorne takes great pains to illuminate the exact nature of Hester’s struggle and to attempt to shed light on the quiet humanity and bravery connected to her living independently.

Hester’s bravery is exhibited in the fact that she made the scarlet letter an item of ornamental quality. The red letter was...


Instead of shirking from her punishment, and the act that caused it, Hester it seems, celebrated it. “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony” (Hawthorne, 49). This is a very striking description as it demonstrates that Hester has no problem confronting her own humanity: she knows she sinned, but she no doubt has a sense of reason about her and knows that her “crime” is not as bad as so many others. The ornamental quality with which she created the letter A and wears it, means she does not hide from her affair. One could also suggest that she does not regret what she did, though she might accept the consequences of it. The highly ornate and elaborate A also serves to suggest that she does not view her child as a mistake or shameful blight. Finally, the highly visible aspect of the letter A also acts as a juxtaposition to all the silence that Hester has to engage in. She remains silent to everyone in the town…

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