Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter


Length: 898 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document


“Religion today is too often merely the worship of guilt, an obsession with sin and an exercise in the rubrics of repentance” (Evely) 1. Such is the case of all sin, including the adultery of Hester Prynne, the main character in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The novel takes place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642-1649 during an era of strict religion under Puritan watch. Hester Prynne, one of such people living in the colony, is punished greatly for her sin, although she is not punished in death. Long ago stated, “All the sins of the body fly away if one chants the name of God” exemplifies the true status of Hester Prynne (Ramakrishna) 2. Although she has sinned, her motives and truly honorable lifestyle will establish her sense of goodness more then her sin will ever condemn her. Hester’s goodness is best established in her attitude toward her punishment, her atonement, and her growth through spiritual enlightenment.
Punishment among the Puritan religion for adultery is commonly execution. In Hester’s case, her punishment is rather different due to many circumstances, one being, her husband may have died at sea. As her punishment for the adultery committed with Dimmesdale, a God-fearing and reputable Puritan, Hester must not only wear a scarlet “A” for the remainder of her residence in Boston, but also stand on a public scaffold in the center of the marketplace. The ignominious letter of punishment, she wears with great pride and it is “so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom” that she is professing her acceptance of all the consequence of her actions (Hawthorne 51). The manner in which Hester conducts herself concerning her punishment establishes her goodness greatly, for even in castigation, she finds morality. Hester Prynne “[makes] a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant as punishment” in her beautiful illustration of her sin upon her chest (Hawthorne 51). She wishes to express her sin overtly, for she accepts it although does not agree with Puritan institution. Again, the fact that Hester dwells in Boston when nothing holds her there is solid proof of her acceptance of her sin. When Hester could “simply hide her character and identity under a new exterior” she gains great respect from many townsfolk for staying despite her abjectness. (Hawthorne 73). Despite popular seemliness, Hester’s roots of sin are the true reason she is bound to the land where she committed her adultery and “a feeling so irritable and inevitable that she has the force of doom” is proof of Hester’s struggle with her sinfulness.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter." 123HelpMe.com. 25 Feb 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=89402>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Essays - “Religion today is too often merely the worship of guilt, an obsession with sin and an exercise in the rubrics of repentance” (Evely) 1. Such is the case of all sin, including the adultery of Hester Prynne, the main character in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The novel takes place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642-1649 during an era of strict religion under Puritan watch. Hester Prynne, one of such people living in the colony, is punished greatly for her sin, although she is not punished in death....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter] 898 words
(2.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Character Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter Essay - Hester Prynne's choice to control the meaning of the scarlet letter transforms her from a shameful and evil person to a compassionate woman. Her refusal to stop wearing the letter proves the letter has a different meaning rather than adultery. Hester Prynne transforms the meaning through her good deeds and deserved redemption. After some time, society begins to construe the scarlet letter as ?Able. rather than adulteress. From this process Hester creates a passionate identity. The scarlet letter claims Hester Prynne?s past but only she can determine whether it will benefit or hurt her future....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne] 354 words
(1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Character of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter Essay - The Character of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne, a character within The Scarlet Letter, is a prime example of Hawthorne's common transformation of individuals within his books. These mutations involve the qualities and attributes of her physical appearance, feminine emotions, and reputation among the townspeople. Throughout the novel, the mentioned elements of Hester's character develop and change several times, providing the reader with better understanding of the influence that the scarlet letter and other characters have on her....   [tags: Papers Nathaniel Hawthorne ]
:: 1 Works Cited
568 words
(1.6 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
The Strength of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter Essay - Reading the Scarlet Letter reminds me of one of my own experience. When I was a fifth grade elementary student, two of my friends and I agreed to cheat on a geography test. On the day of the test, one of my friends was caught. The teacher found the cheat sheet where it showed the handwriting of the three of us. When he was asked who the other two is, he remained silent. The teacher said that he will be punished, standing in the corner of the classroom for one straight week, and it will be lighter if only he told our name....   [tags: essays research papers] 566 words
(1.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Righteous Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - The Strong and Righteous Hester of The Scarlet Letter     "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us," stated Oliver Wendell Holmes. This eventually proves to be especially true for Hester Prynne, the main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne, a fair young maiden whose husband had disappeared two years prior to the opening of the novel, has an affair with the pastor of her Puritan church, resulting in the birth of her child Pearl....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
1194 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Free College Essays - The Character of Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - The Character of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter    Hester Prynne is a very well recognized character in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  She is a character about whom much has been written such as, Toward Hester Prynn, by David Reynolds, and The Scarlet A, Aboriginal and Awesome, by Kristin Herzog.  Reynold's essay dealt with Hester as a heroine, who is an artistic combination of disparate female types.  Herzog's essay dealt with the idea that Hester is both wild and passionate, as well as, caring, conservative, and alien....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays] 686 words
(2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Hester Prynne, of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and Margaret Fuller, Themid-nineteenth-century Campaigner for the Rights of Women - Hester Prynne, of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and Margaret Fuller, Themid-nineteenth-century Campaigner for the Rights of Women "Endowed in certain respects with the sensibility of Margaret Fuller, the great campaigner for the rights of women, Hester Prynne is as much a woman of mid-nineteenth-century American culture as she is of seventeenth-century Puritan New England." Is this an accurate assessment of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was an author, critic, editor and teacher who "possessed more influence on the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time" [1]....   [tags: Hester Hawthorne Scarlet Letter Fuller Essays]
:: 6 Works Cited
2893 words
(8.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Changes of Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter Essay - In Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the reader meets the character Hester Prynne who as the novel progresses, one notices the changes in her character are very dramatic. The changes are both physical and in her mannerism’s. There are many significant events which took place before the start of the novel and during the novel. Some of these events that lead to this dramatic change include the affect of wearing the scarlet letter, the secrets which she keeps, and her daughter Pearl’s evil characteristics....   [tags: essays research papers] 495 words
(1.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Hester Prynne as Puritan Victim in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter - The Scarlet Letter - Hester Prynne as Puritan Victim   In the first several chapters of The Scarlet Letter we can understand Hester Prynne to be a good but misunderstood soul. Labeled as an adulteress, she is the victim of the Puritan lifestyle. A person with many positive traits, she is treated as a terrible person for one unholy act. Far from the evil woman that some of her neighbors see, Hester is a strong, proud and loyal person who resists the worst influences of her community.  Once Hester has begun to wear the scarlet letter in public and is interrogated, she holds out against the preachers in a great display of strength....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays] 524 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Sins of Hester Prynne, Reverend Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter - The Sins of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a study of the effects of sin on the hearts and minds of the main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. Sin strengthens Hester, humanizes Dimmesdale, and turns Chillingworth into a demon. Hester Prynne’s sin was adultery. This sin was regarded very seriously by the Puritans, and was often punished by death....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
2123 words
(6.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]



Punished both by the Puritan society and by herself each day, Hester’s punishment is perhaps greater than any actually perceive it.
Equally important to Hester’s attitude toward her punishment is her atonement of her sin. In dealing with her sin, Hester’s overall appearance says a great deal. Known disreputably by many of the jealous women, the “figure of perfect elegance,” Hester, covered her beautiful hair and wore the “A” with great dignity (Hawthorne 50). Although she is far more beautiful than the other women, Hester dulls her look and strays from the public eye in acceptance of her sin. Again, in trying to make the community in which she has sinned a better place Hester knits clothing of various types for both the rich and the poor. With her letter, a “specimen of her delicate and imaginative skill,” Hester uses her talent to earn money and to provide for the lower classes (Hawthorne 75). This act of generosity to the very people who have forsaken her is truly an act of munificence that many a common person would never commit. Also, in her role as a parent, Hester’s constant concern for Pearl, her daughter, say much about her sinful past. Concerned with Pearl, she goes to see Governor Bellingham, and when questioned, Pearl announces “[I have] been plucked by [my] mother off the bush of wild roses that [grows] by the prison-door.” Fretful that her actions and sin of the past may rub-off on Pearl, Hester seeks outside help, and because of her sin, she must deal with the parenting and education of Pearl rather oddly. Life in itself truly exemplifies Hester’s ongoing punishment, and although her lifestyle has changed greatly, she continues to show her power by growing in each sense.
Comparable to Hester’s other traits are her growth through spiritual enlightenment. Her life in Boston bearing the scarlet “A” and her hardships during the seven year period allow Hester to see the Puritan society for the hypocritical basis in which it really stands. Originally wishing to stay where her sin was committed, she now says “there is a broad pathway to the sea,” for she wishes to lead a happy life with Dimmesdale and Pearl far from the torments of Chillingworth (Hawthorne 178). Through the privation of the society she has learned one great thing—she wishes to not be part of the Puritan people any longer.
Religion is based too greatly around sin, especially in the aspects of Puritan beliefs. Whereas the Puritans handle a sinner such as Hester very austerely, her act is strictly that of passion. Hawthorne shows that sinners are not necessarily evil people, only people who have made mistakes, and these mistakes are pardonable. Regardless of whether the means of forgiveness do their duty or not, to dwell in sin is a sin in itself.


Return to 123HelpMe.com