Hester Prynne and the Aftermath of her Eternal Symbol
How would you feel if you were rejected by a whole city, and nobody wanted you? Well although it might be counterintuitive in his novel The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne is stating that sins can help us change for the better only if they are unveiled to the world. This story takes place in the late 1600’s, and is about Hester Prynne’s pains and sorrows after committing adultery with Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester Prynne has a daughter, Pearl, and her legitimate husband is Roger Chillingworth, a man who dedicates his time throughout the story to torment Dimmesdale.
Early on in the story we are introduced to Dimmesdale, and we find out that he is Pearl’s father. Soon enough the curious townspeople are asking Hester to reveal the identity of her lover, but she refuses to do so, and this is when Dimmesdale says: Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. (129) After Dimmesdale says this to Hester one can notice that he is a coward and that the guilt is already eating him up. Why must Hester be the one to tell his sin to the public? He should set things right and publicly announce his sin.
Later on in the story the scarlet letter begins to take a larger toll on Hester’s life because the townspeople believe that Hester is not a good influence on Pearl. The townspeople believe that if Pearl is not a demon child she is to be taken away from her mother but if she is then she can stay with her mother. This all happens because Hester has committed adultery, a huge sin in the eyes of puritans, so they believe she is no longer fit to care for her daughter.
The author writes: Sometimes the red infamy upon her breast would give a sympathetic throb, as she passed near a venerable minister or magistrate, the model of piety and justice, to whom that age of antique reverence looked up, as to a mortal man in fellowship with angels. (169) This passage serves to compare and contrast what was said by Dimmesdale in the paragraph above. Here Hester is stating that she feels bad for the hypocrites who are forced to hide their sins. This passage also serves to highlight the fact that Dimmesdale is scared of saying his sin because when he speaks to the public they feel that he is a superb speaker, but the only reason that he is able to do this is because he is a sinner himself and is forced to become a hypocrite. Hester has already unveiled her sin so she has nothing to hide and can now repent.
Towards the end of the story Hester speaks with Dimmesdale. They talk for a long time and ponder about running away to England. Still, Dimmesdale wonders if Pearl would ever accept him, so Hester asks Pearl to come over the brook. She doesn’t want to because Hester does not have the scarlet letter “A” on. When Hester puts it on she says “Dost thou know thy mother now, child” (423)? What Hester is saying here is that the scarlet letter has become such a large part of her life, that her daughter will not recognize her if she refuses to wear it. This is very important because this shows that the Scarlett letter “A” has become such a large part of Hester that her own daughter won’t recognize her without it. This shows, that since Hester has embraced her sin and grown as a person her daughter has accepted her as the person she is as well.
In conclusion all of the evidence stated above clearly shows that the scarlet letter has done its job and has made Hester change greatly. One can also note that throughout the story Hawthorne is showing the reader that if one sins one must come out and unveil ones sin to the world because if you don’t it will eat you up from the inside. Works Cited
Hawthorne, Nathaniel . The Scarlet Letter. New York: Kaplan Publishing, 2011. Print.
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