The Scarlet Letter
A Critical Analysis of Hester Prynne
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was written in 1849. This novel won him much fame and a good reputation as a writer. In writing The Scarlet Letter, Hawethorne was creating a form of fiction he called the psychological romance. A psychological romance is a story that contains all of the conventional trappings of a typical romance, but deeply portrays humans in conflict with themselves. The Scarlet Letter won Hawthorne great critical acclaim, and even today the book remains on the best seller list. The Scarlet Letter is so popular maybe because generations of readers can interpret it and see subtle meanings that somewhat reflect their own lives. Each of us, has goodness like Hester Prynne, cowardice like Dimmesdale, and even a little evil like Chillingworth. My favorite character in this book was Hester Prynne because even tough she has done wrong, she remains happy, solid, and sane. In the following essay I plan to critically analyze the novel’s protagonist, Hester Prynne.
Hester Prynne is a young woman who was sent to the colonies by her husband, who plans to join her later but is presumed lost at sea. She is a symbol of the aknowledged sinner; a person whose sin has been recognized but has sought repentance. Hester is the public sinner who shows the effect of her punishment on her human nature. She is seen as a fallen woman in the eyes of the village people. Over the seven years of her punishment Hester’s internal struggle with her sin changes from a victim of Puritanical judgement to being a smart woman who is in tune with human nature. When she meets Dimmesdale in the forest in Chapter 18, Hawthorne says, “ The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread.”
What is most remarkeable about Hester Prynne is her strength of character. Her inner strength and honesty and her compassion to others, even ones that have condemned her is what is brought to the reader’s attention throughout the novel. At the beginning of the novel Hester is described as a radiant beauty, however seven years later her beauty is gone and the beautiful hair that she once had is hidden underneath a cap that she wears. In Chapter 13, she removes the cap and the letter “A” and she becomes the beautiful person that she was before her punishment. I think that this is symbolic in that when she removes her cap and letter she taking off the harsh structure of Puritan society. When Pearl demands that she put back on her cap and letter “ her beauty, the warnth and richness of her womanhood, departed, like fading sunshine; and a gray shadow seemed to fall across her.” While her punishment does change her physical appearance, it...