Hester Prynne


The character of Hester Prynne changed significantly throughout
the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester
Prynne, through the eyes of the Puritans, is an extreme sinner;
she has gone against the Puritan ways, committing adultery. For
this irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for
the rest of her life. However, the Romantic philosophies of
Hawthorne put down the Puritanic beliefs. She is a beautiful,
young woman who has sinned, but is forgiven. Hawthorne portrays
Hester as "divine maternity" and she can do no wrong. Not only
Hester, but the physical scarlet letter, a Puritanical sign of
disownment, is shown through the author\'s tone and diction
as a beautiful, gold and colorful piece.

From the beginning, we see that Hester Prynne is a young and
beautiful woman who has brought a child into the world with an
unknown father. She is punished by Puritan society by wearing
the scarlet letter A on the bosom of her dress and standing on
the scaffold for three hours. Her hair is a glossy brown and her
eyes deep-set, and black, her attire is rich, carefully caressing
her slender figure. The scaffold is a painful task to bear; the
townspeople gathered around to gossip and stare at Hester and her
newborn child, whom she suitably named Pearl, named because of
her extreme value to her mother. In the disorder of faces in the
crowd, young Hester Prynne sees the face of a man she once was
fiercely familiar with, whom we later learn is her true husband,
Roger Chillingworth. Her subjection to the crowd of Puritan
onlookers is excruciating to bear, and Hester holds the child to
her heart, a symbolic comparison between the child and the
scarlet letter, implying that they are truly both intertwined.

Prynne is imprisoned with her child, both of whom are emotionally
and physically exhausted from the punishment at the scaffold.
The husband, Roger Chillingworth, passes by and is commissioned
to be the physician to the two, and remedy them of their
sicknesses. She is surprised he had come at such a time where
she was at a point of such horrendous turmoil. He demands that
she cannot reveal his identity, yet he also wishes to know the
identity of her lover, the father of the child. She refuses to
tell him. Later in the novel, we discover that Arthur Dimmesdale
is the confidential lover.

Hester is released from her cell, after which she resides for the
next few years in a hut by the sea. Her child, Pearl, is a
devilish, impish, terribly behaved child, that is indifferent to
the strict Puritan society. Pearl is a pain to please, having
her way all the time because of her motherÆs failure to subdue
her to the proper Puritan etiquette. Hester knits and weaves for
the townspeople, except for weddings, which people believe would
cause misfortune and unrest in their marriage. They knew that
the Seventh Commandment was thou shalt not commit adulteryö and
they stuck by those rules. The Puritans were truly a people
governed by God.

The novel explains that the Governors repeatedly attempt to take
the child away from Hester, as she has been deemed unfit to raise
the child without the influence of genuine Puritan law and order.
These attempts are failed, for Arthur Dimmesdale, the father and
minister of Hester Prynne, insists that the child is a bond, a
necessity of the young woman who has nothing if she does not have
the child. Another influence upon Hester is Mistress Ann
Hibbens, who is reputed to be a witch throughout the community.
When Hibbens asks Hester to join her in the forest at night to
sign the Black ManÆs book with her own blood, she insists that
she cannot, but if her little Pearl would be taken away, she
would gladly join the ôwitch-ladyö in the forest that night, and
sign the great book in her own blood!

Pearl continuously mocks authority in the novel, a key
characteristic of the imp-childÆs demeanor. She asks stupid
questions that she already knows the answer to, like, ôMother,
did you ever sign the black manÆs bookö, and, Why does the
minister Dimmesdale hold his hand over his heart?ö The mockery
does not end there, however,