August, 30th 2011
Hester’s Public Suffering vs. Dimmesdale’s Lie
The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel set in the mid-seventeenth century, which tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who commits a sin in her home in Boston. With a child in her arms from another man who is not her husband, Hester is obligated to wear a scarlet ‘A’ (which stands for adultery) on her chest. As part of her sentence, she is locked up in prison with her daughter Peal, until she confesses who the child’s father is. As she refuses to name him, she is forced to stand in the town’s pillory for a few hours while being tormented by the civilians’ frightful comments. In most of The Scarlet Letter, Hester is haunted by her sinful act, since the town people use her as an example. However, Dimmesdale, Pearl’s father, also suffers with this situation, even though his identity as Pearl’s father is unknown, his lie lives with him and as the novel progresses, Hester gradually begins to be accepted in society, while Dimmesdale’s life becomes worse.
In contrast to Dimmesdale’s suffering, Hester’s sin is publicly known. Even though Hester tries to be brave while standing in the Pillory with a “haughty smile, and with a glance that would not be abashed...” (Hawthorne, 52), she begins to feel uncomfortable as everyone around her starts staring at the scarlet letter embroidered on her chest. Hester begins to realize how sinful she was among her community, feeling lonesome and weak, “...she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to sprung and stumble upon.” (Hawthorne, 55). Hester has this feeling due to the strict puritan law. She knows that her life will never be the same again and that is what bothers her the most. As she leaves the prison, she believes that from that day on, people will use her as a bad example to society and that she is...