Freest Character in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 5 (2044 words) Published: November 25, 2013
In the novel “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne makes Hester the most “free” character by showcasing her transformation from ostracized sinner to an able woman of her letter in order to display the idea that repressed sin destroys the soul while openness and honesty sets a soul free. Hester was not burdened with the internal guilt that consumed her “fellow sinner”, Arthur Dimmesdale, because she had to wear her sin openly on her chest, forcing her to confront her sin and the stigma that comes along with it. By confronting her sin, she was able to accept what she had done and be freed from the guilt that comes with secrecy and represented sin. Her freedom allowed her to be the least internally burdened of the main characters. Roger Chillingworth was a vengeful, obsessive man and was therefore burdened everyday by thoughts of his revenge on Dimmesdale. Pearl was too young to fully understand what was happening and was confined and controlled by society and her mother, and therefore, did not have the most freedom. Arthur Dimmesdale was suffering from illness caused by the internal burden of guilt that he had felt, so he was not the most free character. Hester received shame and punishment from society for her sin, but put very little guilt and sin on her own self, saving her from her guilt and pain other characters felt.

Hester was forced to confess her sin to the world, unlike her counterpart Dimmesdale. She was forced to be truthful and accept the punishment and stigma; “Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin” (chapter 5, page 54), This quote demonstrates how the Puritan Community placed all of the blame and burden of the sin of adultery on Hester. She was forced to accept all of the shame that came along with the sin. She holds the Stigma and bears the burden, while her “fellow sinner” (Dimmesdale) escapes the public humiliation Puritan Society imposes on sinners. The punishment she was to receive from society would be painful, and, although Hawthorne makes it look like Hester will be the least free character because of her ostracization, he makes Hester an example of how one can move on from their sins and change the meaning of how society views wrong-doing individuals. The fact that she did not have to conceal or hide her true self and true actions allowed her to focus on bettering herself and living a life without an internal guilt following her around. This demonstrates that punishment can be hard to face at first, how Hester has to wear the A and suffer, but that in the long-run, the guilt that one feels is far worse than any external punishment given by an authority figure. Hester is freed from the guilt and internal suffering that comes with guilt and secret sin by admitting and wearing her sin proudly on her chest in the form of an “A”.

Hester’s new choice of home after imprisonment a representation of her freedom. She selects an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town in the forest. The forest, throughout the novel, is a representation of freedom from society. Puritan society put intense pressure, guilt, and shame on people who committed a sin. Hester would not have flourished in the town. However, in the natural world, she would be free to confess her sins and avoid judgment and persecution. Throughout the novel, the forest is a place where the characters can go and discuss their secrets freely. Dimmesdale, Pearl, and Hester were able to be reunited as a family in the forest, which was separate from society. However, She did not want to leave the town completely, so she chose an area on the outskirts. She choose to stay near the town because she wanted to become better for her sins. She still felt, on some level, guilty although she had...
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