The Character Analysis Of Hester Prynne In The Scarlet Letter

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the 17th century, many Puritans emigrated to the New World seeking to restart their lives in New England. The Puritans emigrated to practice their religious freedom. Nathaniel Hawthorne published the Bantam Classic, The Scarlet Letter in 1850. The Scarlet Letter is about a young woman named Hester Prynne, who has to wear the letter “A” on the blossom of her dress, for committing adultery. Hester conceived a child before marriage, which was a great crime at the time of this story. When Hester’s husband came back alive, he hides his identity to seek the truth of who the father of Hester’s child is. The development of the characters, setting, and the use of symbols in The Scarlet Letter is brought through Hester’s transformation as a person, the development of hester’s home/forest as a setting and the use of the child (Pearl) as a symbol to reveal the consequences of sin on an individual person as well as on a community level.

Hawthorne conveys the central idea that the sinner acquires the ability to sense or recognize the sins of others, he shows this through the character Hester Prynne. Hester starts as a young girl who isolates herself, but has a strong will, natural dignity, and is very confident. She raises Pearl alone and distances Pearl and herself from everyone while being honest and truthful. Throughout the story Hester develops into a better person by being hard on herself because she is worried about Pearl and is trying to be a good mother. Throughout the years as Hester wears the letter “A” on her blossom embroidered “in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread” (pg. 50) for punishment, but also as a reminder to her about sinning. Hester Prynne has a new power when she receives the letter “A”. Hester notices that when some people look upon her Scarlet Letter, there is ‘a momentary relief.'(pg. 79). She senses ‘a mystic sisterhood'(pg. 80) when she meets the eyes of another person. The Scarlet Letter helps Hester realize that the Scarlet Letter she wears gives her “a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sins in other hearts.”(pg. 80). In other words, Hester can notice the secret sin in others.

Through the development of Hester’s home/the forest as a setting, Hawthorne conveys the idea how hypocrisy in the Puritan believers by showing the freedom in the forest and the conformity of the town. Hester moves along with Pearl “on the outskirts of the town, within the verge of the peninsula, where there was a small thatched cottage.”(pg. 74) that they moved in. Pearl is allowed to discuss The Scarlet Letter openly with Hester at their home because they’re “not in close vicinity to any other habitation”(pg. 74). It shows how the letter is a part of their life. The forest is a place of freedom and emotional escape while the town is ruled by religion and law. Hester doesn’t obey the laws and she suffers the consequences of punishment and humiliation. The town uses Hester as an example to frighten others who would be willing to break the Puritan laws. Hawthorne states “If she entered a church, trusting to share the Sabbath smile of the Universal Father, it was often her mishaps to find herself”(pg. 79) the subject of the sermon.

The use of the Pearl as a symbol further symbolizes that Pearl is portrayed as a symbol of adultery. Pearl is a unique character. In the beginning of the novel, Pearl is the symbol of Hester’s public punishment for her adultery. Pearl is “The Scarlet Letter in another form, the scarlet letter endowed with life!”(pg. 93), she is the living form of her mother’s scarlet letter, “The Scarlet Letter is running by her side!”(pg. 93), which constantly reminds her of her sin. Pearl is more than a punishment to her mother, she is also a blessing. The name “Pearl” is perfect because of what is means to Hester. Her name symbolizes the “pearl of great price”(pg. 81) that Hester had to pay suffering in childbirth and that she “was purchased with all she had” (pg. 81) and Hester believed that Pearl is her only reason for living, “her mother’s only treasure” (pg. 81).

Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the transformation of Hester, Hester’s home/forest as the setting and the use of Pearl as a symbol, all to reveal the consequences of sin on an individual person as well as on a community level. Throughout Hester’s transformation and Hester’s home/forest as a setting Hawthorne develops the idea that a sinner can acquire the ability to sense or recognize the sins of others and the idea of how hypocrisy in the Puritan believers show the freedom in the forest and the conformity of the town. Hawthorne further uses Pearl to symbolize that she is portrayed as a symbol of adultery. Hester’s firm faith in herself and her loyalty to her daughter allows her to resist and rise above the Puritan laws.  

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