Conscience versus Society
The inevitable decision between following society and one’s own conscience is evident throughout many major works of literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays this conflict through his novel, The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s main character, Hester Prynne, exemplifies this conflict as a woman in her society. Through the attitudes and proceedings of Hester Prynne, Hawthorne shows his view on how one should not sacrifice dignity in order to appease the community they live in.
Naturally, Hester’s position as a woman degrades her in society. According to Puritan theology, women were considered weak because Eve, in the Garden of Eden, was the first to sin, rather than Adam. Also, they were not allowed to speak in churches and referred to as inferior creatures compared to men. For Hester to submit to the authority and power of the people, the society as a whole would feel a sense of power and control over the sinners of their community. “ The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale” (Hawthorne 50) was how the author described her as. Also, Hester was distinguished as being,”...lady like,too,after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity”(50). Hester refused to let her scarlet letter and humiliation from others diminish her dignity and pride. She is shown here with a sense of poise and composure. Hester has kept this poise and self control despite the society’s attempt to burn her with evil looks and stares. This makes an important point in the novel because women were supposed to be submissive and Hester seems to not even care what others think of her. Hester refused to let the Puritan’s pressure of surrendering to the judgment of their society ruin her self respect and dignity as a woman.
Hester knows that she would have to change her whole entire life to be what her own society wants her to be, a symbol of shame and guilt. Hester decides not to...
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