Though he does not receive punishment from the Puritan community, he gives it to himself. He makes up for not confronting himself to the Puritan community by scourging and fasting. In addition, hallucinations make his suffering unbearable. On the other hand, Hester stands on a scaffold for public humiliation. Hester’s strong and bold personality makes the public shaming sustainable and has little effect on her.
We are all sinners, no matter how hard we try to hide our faults, they always seem to come back, one way or another. Written in the 19th century, Nathaniel Hawthorne shows us Hester Prynne and how one sin can change her life completely. Hester Prynne changes a great deal throughout The Scarlet Letter. Through the view of the Puritans, Hester is an intense sinner; she has gone against the Puritan way of life committing the highest act of sin, adultery. For committing such a sinful act, Hester must wear the scarlet letter while also having to bear stares from those that gossip about her.
At the beginning of the novel, she is turned into a walking symbol of sin but by the end of the novel she is a role model for women.” (Alicia, 2012) As the story progresses we see that Hester becomes stronger and independent as well. As mentioned above, Hester is able to earn a living for her and raise Pearl as a single mother as well by making clothes for the people living in the Puritan community. She also chooses to stay at the outskirts of the town and face the people rather than settling in a different town where no one knows about her crime. Even though Hester becomes an independent woman the two men in her life always over powers her. Hester’s husband Mr. Chillingworth and Mr. Dimmesdale who she committed adultery with are the main causes for her misery.
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.
Hester is a character of strength. Hawthorne reveals Hester’s strength in character through constant acts of strength. After the discovery of Hester’s sin of adultery, Hester is punished by being taken “out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself”, (Hawthorne, 51), by marking Hester with the Scarlet letter “A” upon her attire. The scarlet “A” is meant to label her as an “Adulterer”. The effect this letter had was significant.
In the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation swept through England and caused people like John Calvin to make up their own religions. Henry VIII made the Anglicanism the official religion of England, and any dissenters, even dissenters who belonged to the Church of England, were persecuted. Puritans were some of these dissenters, and they migrated to the New World seeking religious freedom, a place to live the way they believed was pleasing to God. As the Puritans' lives were shaped by their religion, so too did their religious values and ideas influence the political, social, and economic development of the New England colonies. That their belief that people should obey religious authority and their value of unity shaped the northern colonies'
In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester represents a strong female character. The humiliation of forever wearing the embroidered scarlet letter upon her chest resulted in Hester intensifying her strength and resilience. Although Hester was very courageous, this does not make The Scarlet Letter a feminist novel. Feminism is fighting for women to have equal rights and therefore a feminist is someone who is promoting that idea. The novel itself is not advocating equal rights, it does the complete opposite.
While the punishment over her sin effects her physical beauty, it has a much more massive effect on her internal identity. Even though Hester possesses this great beauty she is overlooked because of the letter She is only known as the immoral woman who committed adultery, she is still known as the woman possessing the scarlet
In a legalistic society, people adhere to strict moral codes, punishing and isolating transgressors. Hester Prynne, in the fiction that I have read recently--The Scarlet Letter is an example of the transgressor-adulteress. Hester breaks the social laws, and thus, is considered a sinner, condemned to wearing the stigmatizing ‘A’, lying in her bosom for Adultery. With this symbol of sin, Hester suffers despise and isolation. Yet, later, Hester Prynne has done charitable acts due to her repentance, achieving saintliness.
The town that Hester lives in has a prison and a cemetery, which are usually associated with sad and dark thoughts. The people in the town try to control the lives of the people by creating laws they think are correct. Once someone breaks those laws, they cannot be forgiven and must be punished. The author states, “It may serve, let us hope, to symbolise some sweet moral blossom”(42). The rose-bush at the front of the jail suggests that nature will feel sympathetic towards people who are being punished.