The Character of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne, a character within The Scarlet Letter, is a prime example of Hawthorne's common transformation of individuals within his books. These mutations involve the qualities and attributes of her physical appearance, feminine emotions, and reputation among the townspeople. Throughout the novel, the mentioned elements of Hester's character develop and change several times, providing the reader with better understanding of the influence that the scarlet letter and other characters have on her.
In the beginning of the novel, the reader is presented with a physical appearance of Hester that is pleasing to the visual eye. It is Hawthorne describes his heroine of the book by writing that "She had dark and abundant hair…face…beautiful…features and richness of complexion…deep black eyes" (51). Over time, these attributes faded and the "attractiveness of her person had undergone…change…sad transformation…luxuriant hair…cut off…hidden…some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been essential to keep her a woman" (140-141). This obvious change was the doing of the scarlet letter, and the toll it had taken on the formerly joyful Hester Prynne. The changes of appearance fail to stop there, however, and in the latter portion of the book, Hester is reunited with her true love. Hawthorne writes that "her sex, her youth…richness of beauty, came back" (170) after this reunion, and Hester, once again, returns to her original form.
The emotions of Hester also fail to obtain a true form during the course of the novel, and a warm, passionate, charming, and tender Hester is eventually molded into a cold, overly thoughtful, and plain woman. Examples of this in the text include "much of marble...