The Scarlet Letter – Courage Against the Societal Norms of Puritan Society
Specifically, Hester highlights her strength and courage against the societal norms of her Puritan society when she doesnt succumb to the punishments of her sin the same way that others would. When Hesters sin became public, she, with her daughter in her hands, was brought out in front of the entire community to the scaffold where she was to be publicly humiliated. However, Hester steps up to the scaffold willingly and stands up strongly and confidently against an angry crowd in front of her.
When the young woman – the mother of this child – stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom… In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance hat would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours(P.50). Here Hesters true character is revealed for the first time, and when she not only willingly goes up to the scaffold, but also stands up there proudly while smiling with her baby, she shows a new reaction to a punishment that has essentially never been seen in this society, and shows for one of the first times in Puritan society the need for change, and the need for women to be respected and revered, which was something that had not been acknowledged and processed by many members of the society. Additionally, Hester stands up against the notion of the time that women are generally smaller and weaker than men, by standing up on the scaffold proudly and unfazed by the mean heckling crowd.
Furthermore, through Hesters actions and defiance of the Scarlet Letter, she shifts society’s view of the Scarlet Letter and herself. Initially, the entire society was against Hester when they found out that she had committed adultery, and wanted her to suffer and be punished as a result. Specifically, when Hester is on the scaffold, and when her sin is just becoming known to the society, one of the main women of the town screams out, ‹This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die(P.49). These were the initial reactions and feelings of the entire town at this time, and the entire town mistreated her and made her feel bad as a result. However, later on, as the years progress and Hester has the Scarlet Letter on her for years and years more, these rash and harsh opinions towards Hester end up dying down.
The letter was a symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, – so much power to do, and power to sympathize, – that many people refused interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength(p.149). Here the opinions of Hester clearly shift so much, that the townspeople are changing their opinion on what is really branded on her chest, a mark of sin, to a positive mark rather than a curse. These shifts in emotions from the community happen because Hester has recently done so much for her community even with the Scarlet Letter on her. She is giving to her society, she is selfless, she helps the sick, and has become an incredibly respected and revered women. These shifts in feelings of the townspeople truly highlight how the community really feels about Hester at this point, and how they are beginning to respect and revere Hester for what a strong and fearless woman she is, despite what difficulties she might face. Furthermore, Hester, through her actions, has clearly made many of the people in her society respect her and value her as a strong and independent female. Through Hesters display to her society of generosity, selflessness and love, she has created a more contemporary and advanced perspective of womens rights and roles, and has made the society revere and respect women more than they ever have before.
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Contents 1 Summary: 2 Characters: 3 Discussion Questions: 4 At the end when Hester returns, Hawthorne writes: 5 Key Passage Explanation: Summary: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a […]
Specifically, Hester highlights her strength and courage against the societal norms of her Puritan society when she doesnt succumb to the punishments of her sin the same way that others […]