Character Analysis of Hester Prynne

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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.

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. 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. 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, child, that is indifferent to the strict Puritan society. Pearl is a pain to please, having her way all the time because of her mother's failure to subdue her to the proper Puritan etiquette. Hester knits and weaves for the townspeople.

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. Pearl continuously mocks authority in the novel, a key characteristic of the imp-child's demeanor. She asks stupid questions that she already knows the answer to. The mockery does not end there, however, and Pearl goes on about her retarded ways, throwing rocks at other children that look at her the wrong way and swearing at them. It pains Hester to watch her child go about the world as if possessed by an agent of Satan, and she both loves, and in some ways, loathes the child. Later in the novel, when Chillingworth is at his height of having his way with Dimmesdale, the weakened minister, Hester and Arthur meet in the forest to discuss their future. Here in the forest, Hester removes the scarlet letter, and drops it on the ground. She then removes her cap, letting her hair shine in the forest sunlight. Here, Hester Prynne has made a significant change from her somber, drab appearance, to her beauty of days long passed. However, after feeling rejuvenated, she is disappointed to see that her own child, Pearl, will not recognize her change, and, demands that her mother bind the Scarlet Letter back upon her bosom. She then goes back to business, telling her beloved Arthur that she will set sail with him and Pearl to the Old Country in after the Election Day sermon, which Dimmesdale is to speak at.

Soon the drama unfolds as Chillingworth discovers that the trio are boarding a boat across the sea after the Election Day, and he books himself up to travel with them, since he is obsessed with torturing Dimmesdale. Then,...
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