The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Relationship between Hester and the Community

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In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the relationship between Hester and the community parallels the symbolic metamorphosis of Hester’s scarlet letter. The Puritan society alienates and isolates Hester; her initial relationship with the community was despondent and detached. This averse relationship between the society and Hester was personified through the creation of the scarlet letter. Hawthorne establishes a direct correlation between the significance of the scarlet letter and the relationship between Hester and the society. The scarlet letter was established by the Puritan society to be a corporeal expression of sin and temptation, but through Hester’s altruistic and enduring nature, the scarlet letter becomes a virtuous symbol and thus Hester’s relationship with the community is amended. During the early stages of Hester’s punishment, the scarlet letter that Hester is condemned to bear on her chest is a relatively unique and foreign object within the Puritan society; as a result her relationship with the society is strained and she is met with hostility and distrust. This also reveals that Puritan society is stagnant and as a result fears change and uniqueness. The society berates Hester and resents her adultery; Hester’s presence in the community generates apprehension among the Puritans. Hawthorne utilises the depraved relationship between Hester and the community to evoke the irony behind her punishment. This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there no law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray! (Hawthorne 49). Hawthorne establishes the desperate nature of the Puritans to eradicate sin, and in extension, Hester, from their society. The Puritans perceive humanity as submissive in the face of sin; this is made evident by the woman condemning the daughters and wives of the community to the same fate as Hester. As a result, the Puritans view Hester as a temptress and symbol for sin. The women addresses Hester in contemptuous and taunting tones which further suggest the strained relationship between Hester and the community. The Puritan view on Hester is physically manifested in the scarlet letter. From early on, Hawthorne employs the scarlet letter as a symbol that evokes the strength of Hester and her relationship to society. Hawthorne portrays her relationship with the society in these tumultuous times as severe, which correlates with the severity of what the scarlet letter represents during this period. The scarlet letter represents Hester’s sin and Hawthorne has Hester subconsciously stylize her scarlet letter to inherently represent Hester’s character and function in society. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter ‘A.’ It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony. (Hawthorne 50) Hawthorne utilises vivid imagery to juxtapose the significance of the scarlet letter and its physical manifestation, thereby effectively emulating irony in order to define Hester’s strong spirit and womanhood. The letter is a personification of sin, and a taboo object in society. Hawthorne contrasts this idea by painting an alluring image of the letter by employing eloquent diction. Hawthorne exploits this irony to draw a parallel between the letter and Hester. Hester is also beautiful and elegant yet is shunned from society. By connecting the scarlet letter and Hester through this parallel, Hawthorne successfully unifies the significance and fate of the scarlet letter with...
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