Critical Analysis Of Chapter 13, Scarlet Letter

952 words - 4 pages

Midway through The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne gives the reader an in-depth look at the change in Hester Prynne's character. The chapter title: "Another View of Hester" sets the stage for the discussion of the change in Hester's personality, character, and intellect as well as a summary of her past four years. This "other view" refers both to the changing perception of the Puritan community toward Hester as well as the narrator's detailed description of the changes in her. There are several key changes in this chapter, which can be considered.

Firstly, identity emerges as an important premise in this section of the novel. The ways in which a society tries to define a person are often at odds with the way that individual defines them self. As the community reinterprets the scarlet letter, Hester once again has an identity thrust upon her by her fellow townspeople, but in the end, it's just a letter.

The town's reevaluation of Hester is significant because of what it says about Hester herself, about the changes she has undergone while earning this new classification. The people in her community believe that Hester's charitable behavior is the result of their punitive system working effectively. Hester spends most of her days tending to the sick and feeding the poor and waits for no acknowledgement from those she has rendered services. When confronted by people, she bows her head and places her finger upon the Scarlet Letter. This shift in Hester's nature leads to the re-classification of the letter, so much that it comes to mean "Able" instead of "Adulterer" and leads the townspeople to think that the punishment has successfully humbled her, when in fact, "the scarlet letter had not done its office" (Hawthorne, 124).

In reality, the Scarlet Letter has not led her to contemplate her sin and possible salvation, but rather, she ponders the laws of society and the existence of the entire race of womanhood. Hester's thinking has also led her to realize that she does not have accept the town's assessment of her and that she does not have to depend on society in order to survive. These thoughts, if revealed to the men of rank in her community, would have been construed as a deadlier crime than that which she was compelled to where the Scarlet Letter for.

Although the Scarlet Letter had not "punished" Hester in the manner in which community had intended, Hester had suffered a different form of penance. Hester had retreated into a cold, lonely and dark place in her mind. She was alone in the world. Had she not been blessed with a child, her fate might have been very different. Pearl had given Hester strength and purpose. "Providence, in the person of this little girl, had assigned...

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