The Scarlet Letter has been a dominant piece of literature in America for 400 years. The book is about a single parent, Hester Prynne, who is being publically shamed for committing adultery while her husband was at sea. Throughout the book, Hester tries to keep the identity of her daughter’s father secret, while living with the shame of wearing a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom. The perception of Hester Prynne, from the characters, narrator, and reader, changes from bad to good as the book progresses; The Scarlet Letter is an example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” While reading this book, Hester’s character is the driving force of transformation.
In the beginning of the book, Hester is presented as a sinner, whose actions are bad enough to require imprisonment. Hester is put on display for the whole town to see, and none of the spectators feel that the shaming is immoral. Woman spectating the event say, “’let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart’" (Hawthorne, 36). The book then jumps to a time when Pearl is three years old, and Hester is living in an isolated cabin with only her daughter. The townspeople still view Hester as a sinner who they would rather not deal with.
The shaming of Hester was seen as a correct, acceptable way to handle her crime. In comparison, we continue a similar practice in present day. An example of a modern “scarlet letter” is the electronic criminal record. “The majority of ex-offenders have criminal records tied to their names because of lesser offences”. Jobs, education, housing, and insurance have been denied to these people because of their pasts” (Murphy). Most crimes do not warrant a lifetime of shaming. The same story is told through Hester Prynne, but the consequences for her were more tangible. A modern day Hester could be a neighbor or an acquaintance. Hester’s scarlet letter is real, and it gives the impression that she is a criminal to everyone she comes into contact with in the book.
As the plot progresses, Hester’s impression on the other characters, and on the reader, grows positive. She is a single parent, yet still takes good care of Pearl. The best show of Hester’s parenting comes from the scene taking place at the Governor’s mansion. Pearl is questioned without the presence of her mother, by individuals who do not care much for the girl to start with. Hester parents in such a way that her daughter does not know why she doesn’t live a normal life, but she does know the her mother has made are not...