Hester as a Self-Reliant Character

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Individualism in a Society-Based World

In a society-centered world, living as self-reliant can be a difficult task to accomplish because society puts pressure on its members to conform to its standards. Nonconformists are eluded by society and consequently have difficulty retaining their nonconformist position. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance", those who express themselves and dismiss the role of consistency are misunderstood, but great and as a result will ultimately rise in a "morally perfect," but hypocritical society. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne was created as a self-reliant character that indirectly exploits the flaws and hypocrisy of Puritan society, as well as to prove Hester as a survivor. In addition to Hester and self-reliance, Hawthorne reveals the hypocrisy of Puritan society.

Hester is a symbol of self-reliance because she resumes wearing the scarlet letter "A," a symbol of her adulterous act and she stayed loyal to herself by daring to live beyond the petty rules of Puritan society. She is obviously not repentant, as she chooses to remain in Boston, even when she is free to go elsewhere and start a new life. "Here had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene her earthly punishment; and so perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soil, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like because the result of martyrdom." (chp. 5). Hester had become a strong willed, modest woman, seeking nothing but to have her sin forgiven in the place where it had been committed. She proves herself strong minded and willed, as she lives her life through, "the torture of her daily shame" by disregarding the views of others and wearing the scarlet letter proudly. For Hester to go through such torture daily, seems almost inconceivable, but because she survived, Hester had become known as a strong woman.

In the second chapter, Hawthorne explains...
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