The standards that the Puritan ideal set are virtually impossible for any human to attain. Part of the ideal was that they believed that man only existed for the Glory of God and to do only His will in effort to obtain future happiness. Religion governed the community and all aspects of life in these communities. Since the ideal was almost impossible to attain, society was fraught with sin. Hawthorne addresses sin and transformation through his characters Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the Puritan setting to discuss the human toll of such lofty and intolerant ideals.
The concept of Individual freedom plays a large role in the development of the main character in The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne, one of the main characters, is a shining example of the transformation that individual freedom can produce in a person. Initially, Hester is depicted as a proud woman who does not conform to the Puritan ideal. The reader is first introduced to her individuality when, “she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors.”(Hawthorne 36-37). Hester accepts her destiny and her transformation begins after she is sent to live in the outskirts of town. In order support herself and her daughter, Hester takes up sewing and sells the clothing she makes in the town. However, she uses almost all of her free time to make clothing for the poor. Over time, she continues to help the poor and sick and spends much time advising other women in her town. Her strength shows that the letter, “A” which originally meant “adulterer”, now means “able”. “They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.” (Hawthorne 111). Anne Bradstreet is also a prime example of individual freedom. During Bradstreet’s life, women were expected to
Cited: Bradstreet, Anne. “The Prologue” . Print. Hawthorne, Nathaniel . The Scarlet Letter. Dover Publications, Inc., Print. Taylor, Edward. “Meditation 1”. Print.