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“The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

In the book, “Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne has an affair and bears a child. This shocked the Puritan community deeply and she was forced to live alone with her child, Pearl, in the forest. After seven long years, she is incorporating herself back into the community due to her superb sewing skills. Although she is somewhat accepted into the community again, she cannot stop her passionate feelings for her lover, the Minister Dimmesdale. Her individual beliefs conflict with the society of the Puritan community, and demonstrate the idea that individual belief should not be overruled by society because society deems it wrong. These beliefs are so strong that she is willing to commit suicide rather than have society determine who she is.

She pretends to obey the rules on the outside, and completely ignore society on the inside was one of the main reasons why this internal conflict becomes a huge problem.

“It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulation of society.” (61)

The quote mentions how one person can have the most radical beliefs, yet still follow the rules of society.

No one else understands Hester Prynne, mainly because there are not that many who have committed adultery, so Hester does not find anyone to relate to. Since she is so helpful and becomes a productive member of society, the town fathers contemplate allowing her to remove the scarlet letter. When Chillingworth, her husband, asks her why her scarlet letter is not removed, she answers,

“It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off this badge …were I worthy to be quit of it, it would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport.” (165)

Even though society accepts her, the conflict does not become resolved. She is stubbornly unwilling to let the society tell her what to do, as shown by
her refusal to take off the scarlet letter, since it becomes part of her.

Despite the fact that it is a sin to commit adultery, Hester Prynne still loves Dimmesdale and even plots to escape to Europe with him and Pearl to start new lives.

“The vessel had recently arrived … Hester Prynne- whose vocation, as self- enlisted Sister of Charity, had brought herself aquainted with the captain and crew- could take upon herself to secure the passage of two individuals and a child.” (188)

This only shows how much she believes in her own beliefs and refuses to cave in to society’s demands because she feels that what she has with Dimmesdale is much more passionate and fruitful than her holy marriage to Roger Chillingworth, so she decides its better to run off and start a new life with Dimmesdale..

Eventually the situation got to a point where Hester Prynne commits suicide. After Dimmesdale’s death, who was one her only real reason to live, she finds herself between a rock and a hard place. She could run away with Pearl, and live a new life, but what would be the point of that? She instead decides to join Dimmesdale in the afterlife and kills herself.

If we all thought about it, Dimmesdale’s death was the final straw for Hester Prynne, but mixing together an uptight society’s inability to accept her for who she is, her individual beliefs becoming more important than the greater good of the community, a jealous husband and a deep secret is what really leads her to suicide, since she has no other real solution to her problem.


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