“The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, so much power to do, and power to sympathize, that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman 's strength” (Hawthorne146). Instead of conforming to the letter which means adulterer, the letter now means able. Hester is not the only one who does not conform.
She is bitter towards the town that shamed and ostracized her. She also feels a great burden from the scarlet letter she is forced to wear, yet she is too proud to let others know. As the story progresses, she becomes stronger and more compassionate; she eventually redeems herself. She learns to view herself in a more modest manner. Hester’s main conflict is external.
No longer was she the smiling and blushing woman on the scaffold, she turned into a woman whose guilt ate her alive. Hester felt as if "no fellow-mortal was guilty like herself" (Hawthorne 95). Hester claimed that if the sins of everyone in town were announced as hers there would be more people wearing scarlet letters (Hawthorne 94), perhaps the town would have an entire alphabet of scarlet letters (Dawson 1011). Hester's situation made her lonely, she felt as if no one truly understood where she stood. The only companion Hester had was her beloved daughter, however, Pearl was a constant reminder of Hester's sin (Dawson 1011).
The townspeople often despised Pearl, due to her being a representation of her mother's sin. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes Pearl as being a real life image as adultery. Hester is constantly reminded of her sin, just by seeing and raising Pearl everyday. Though Hester is reminded about her sin, she takes on the task of being a mother of Pearl. Hester loved Pearl, even though she had to go through a lot to keep her.
Is there not law for it? Truly, there is, both in the scripture and the statute-book” (Hawthorne 49). After her initial punishment at the pillory, Hester as well as her daughter, Pearl, were ostracized. Pearl was unable to play with other children, as she was, “An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened infants” (Hawthorne 85). Hester was avoided in public.
After doing so Hester had a very heavy weight taken off herself, and later on people started to appreciate her again. At the sight of Hester people would rejoice and would say “Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge? They would say too the strangers. “It is our Hester the town's own Hester, who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted!” Hawthorne (13). This was all a very special gift to Hester, once being the towns shun now being known for her heroic deeds.
Although she is looked down upon by the society in the beginning of the novel, she is transformed into a symbol of strength, something typically reserved for men, towards the end of the novel. “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 146). Through her suffering, Hester had become an inspiring symbol of strength for the community.
Wearing the letter was significant because it made me think how Hester would’ve felt wearing her letter all day. However, instead of wearing it for one day, Hester had to wear hers for the rest of her life and bore a negative trait instead of a positive one. From this assignment, I gained a new perspective on how others thought of me compared to how I thought of myself. For example, others assume that I’m quiet because I don’t talk that much in school. Outside of school, I love to talk to my friends and family members.
She became one of the town’s most common subjects to discuss, as they say “Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge? It is our Hester - the town’s Hester - who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comforting to the afflicted!’ ”(159). The general public commends her for what it viewed as a handicap; she becomes a feminist icon and a local hero even through her years of
“Again, as if her mother’s agonized gesture were meant only to make sport for her, did little Pearl look into her eyes, and smile!” (p 82). Pearl herself being the product of sin, is a constant reminder to her mother that the scarlet letter cannot be neglected. Hawthorne shows this symbolism various times throughout the story. In Chapter two, during the first scaffold scene when Hester tries to hide away her scarlet letter with Pearl, Hawthorne indicates how useless that would be, considering that Pearl is the personification of her sin. “In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another…” (p 45).