Not only could Hester not work to her full ability, she also was shamed by the public. While she was to stand on the scaffolding, the townswomen would whisper about Hester. “There was, moreover, a boldness and rotundity of speech among these matrons, as most of them seemed to be” (Hawthorn pg. 35 ) Hester faced judgment from the townspeople no matter how hard she worked to achieve a better life. As time passed their shaming went down, but she was never able to have a normal place in their society, because everyone's first impression of her would the the red letter of her
This shows how ungrateful and judgemental her society is. All things considered, through these many skills Hester accomplishes, the meaning of the scarlet letter, embroidered on her chest, changes in meaning from ‘adulterer’ to ‘able.’ This eventually leads to women looking up to her and going to her for advice. As a result, “the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too” (Hawthorne 257). Hester’s experiences living with society, as they looked down upon her, eventually changes the way society looks at people and the choices they make.
The change led to the society change in their view of Hester. She had “so much power to do, and power to sympathie,--that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by it original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 146). The ‘A’ on her chest morphs its meaning to represent being able. Robinson, held his tongue for two years, but he could not, like Hester keep quiet any longer.
Hester's divine beauty outshines others corrupt beliefs of her. While Hester walks stumbles out the prison doors and onto the dreaded scaffold, Hawthorne describes Hester as "the young woman [who] was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance, on a large scale" (40). Hester Prynne is being publicly shamed for the act of adultery she committed along with the minister who condemns her. She is forced to stand on the scaffold and beat the sorrow of he sins with the scarlet letter "A" on her bosom to represent her shameful acts. This mark of embarrassment serves a purpose to make her appear unrighteous, but the author chooses to focus on her beauty, which outshines this emblem.
These characteristics are brought forth by the scarlet letter. It is these same aspects of Hester that enable her to keep her sanity during her arduous time spent in isolation. Therefore, even though the scarlet “A” brings Hester great pain and suffering, it also transforms her in a way that allows her to withstand the burden that is brought on by the disgraceful symbol. As told by the narrator, "The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude!
Hester is accused of being unfaithful to her husband, Roger Chillingworth, despite his absence from her life for a long period of time. During one of Roger’s extended absences, Hester conceives a child born out of sin with Arthur Dimmesdale. Arthur Dimmesdale is a local holy man and is never exposed for his sin, while Hester is frequently mistreated, and eternally punished with a scarlet “A” marked on her clothing to represent Adulterer. Hester talks about wearing the “A”, and resents the fact that it may be pointed at as a sign of weakness. Hester says, “giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion” (91 Hawthorne).
Everyone makes mistakes, but it is what people do with their lives after the mistake that define them. In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne changes throughout the novel physically and mentally. The letter “A” on Hester’s chest helps Hester grow into a better person. The “A” gives Hester Prynne confidence; she does not let her mistake define her. The “A” gives her courage because she stays in Boston even though everyone hates her.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester transforms into a stronger, more confident woman through the experiences she encounters because of the scarlet letter she wears. At the beginning of the novel when Hester is ordered to wear the scarlet letter, she suffers from feelings of hopelessness and despair; feelings that trigger the thought of suicide as an option to end her suffering. While newly wearing the letter, Hester feels as though it is only a burden; however, that changes as the letter soon reveals to be a gift in disguise. The scarlet letter allows Hester to sense the guilt of those who appear to be the purest and sinless, showing her the true hypocrisy of her society. By eventually learning of the hypocrisy of her society, Hester realizes that her fellow men and women should not have the power to ruin her life.
She receives three punishments from the townspeople, who claim they will free her from her sin. The community orders Hester to go to jail, wear a scarlet letter on her chest, and stand on the town scaffold for hours. Hester wears her scarlet letter proudly on her chest, and endures much suffering because of her public ridicule. Hester is “kept by no restrictive clause of her condemnation within the limits of the Puritan settlement” after she was released from prison, but she chooses to stay (Hawthorne 71). Later, Hester’s child, Pearl, symbolizes the Puritan view of Hester.
Throughout the novel, Hester is fraught by the Puritan society and her suffering is an effect of how evil society is. Hester continues to believe that the crime she committed was not wrong and she should not be punished for it. Her desire to protect and love Dimmesdale, turn her into a stronger person and become a heroine in the book. Although society still views her as a “naughty baggage” (Hawthorne 73) and is punished for her wrongdoing, Hester never thought to take revenge on them, yet she gives everything she has to the unfortunate and leaves herself with very little. She continues to stay positive no matter what society has for her.
In the beginning the scarlet letter represented adultery and shame, but then the A represented “able.” Hester Prynne showed people that greatness can come out of huge mistake. One bad chapter does not mean your story is over. Willingly, Hester wanted to pick herself up again and move on with her life and eventually people noticed that. They began to respect her and think of her as strong and commendable
Even though the Puritans may have designated the letter as a representation of sin, Hester’s renewed sense of pride does not want society to define the A for her. Rather Hester wants to define it herself and by doing so she develops responsibility and power over her own actions. Because Hester has the power to change who she is, she also has the power to change what the Scarlet Letter represents. By letting the letter be “embroidered with gold thread” readers are able to see how for Hester sin is not something to be fearful of; furthermore, it allows one to see how Hester has developed into an independent individual who accepts who she is and the situation she is presented with. Hester’s lover unfortunately
Receiving the scarlet letter changed every aspect of Hester’s life. Especially at the start of the story, the letter symbolized the solitude and great suffering Hester faced just because of a letter placed on her bosom. The “A” also depicted how no one viewed Hester the same way as before her peccant actions. “…she saw that, owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance” (Hawthorne 109). The pejorative community Hester lived in never saw Hester as the beautiful, young woman she was, but now, as a horrible fiend.
Why are light and dark references so prominent in The Scarlet Letter? Many quotes from the book allude to a light or dark reference for the main characters. The light and dark we see in each character is critical to the book because the references show how they are developing. This is an important theme because the light and dark references are noticeable in our own lives, and change how we live day to day as well. Light and dark imagery, alluding to the larger conflict between good and evil, is present throughout the novel in the characters of Roger Chillingworth, Pearl and Hester Prynne.