The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne

In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne commits many sins which affect her life in many ways. She has to wear the letter A on her bosom, which was known as the scarlet letter. The A stood for adultery. Living in a Puritan society as she did, the theocracy looks at morality in a very strict way. Whenever people see the scarlet letter, they look at her as if she is the devil which “[took] her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and [enclosed] her in a sphere by herself (Hawthorne 51). Besides wearing the scarlet letter, her punishment is to stand on a platform with her illegitimate daughter, Pearl “under the heavy weight of a thousand unrelenting eyes, all fastened upon her, and concentrated at her bosom (Hawthorne 54).

Even though Hester confines herself and Pearl in a cabin in the woods, she still regularly keeps in touch with society because they have a need for her knitting skills. But because of her sin, even “in all her intercourse with society there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it” (Hawthorne77). Her daughter Pearl was all Hester had, she was her everything and even she reminds Hester of her sin constantly. Pearl was considered “the scarlet letter endowed with life” (Hawthorne 93). Having committing adultery, there are two men that her sin affect, Roger Chillingworth her husband, and Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale her lover.

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Hester comes to understand that her sin has twisted and corrupted her husband’s soul as he seeks revenge. Also, her failure to identify Roger Chillingworth as her husband has cost her lover, Dimmesdale, much anguish and guilt, which led to his downfall. Hester’s conscience is acute, and she feels deeply the wrong she has done to others. When Dimmesdale claims that he does not have the strength to evade Chillingworth’s evil plan, it is easy for her to suggest they escape together. Ultimately, after the death of these two men, Hester is able to escape her identity as a fallen woman. She and Pearl spend many years in the Old World.

Yet, when she returns to Boston at long last, she voluntarily takes up the scarlet letter A. Through the remainder of Hester’s life, there are indications that the person who lives apart from society of the scarlet letter is the object of love and interest with some inhabitant of another land. Even though Pearl stays in the Old World, Boston has “here been her sin; here, her sorrow; and here was yet to be her penitence” of Hester Prynne (Hawthorne 234).