Hester Prynne: The Ultimate Feminist Heroine
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American classic The Scarlet Letter the main character Hester Prynne is portrayed as the preeminent feminist heroine through the portraiture of her crime and punishment. In this novel, a Puritanical society in New England condemns Hester Prynne to wear a highly embossed depiction of the letter “A” on her breast as punishment for an act of adultery. How Hester handles the consequences of her castigation is what brings about the heroic feministic qualities of the main character. Three aspects that corroborate Hester Prynne’s qualities are: 1. Admitting her sin openly to fellow man and God, 2. Putting up with the taunting and social exile of her punishment, and 3. Aspiring above her torment to give love to her daughter Pearl and Pearl’s father, Reverend Dimmesdale.
Hester Prynne openly admits her sin to fellow man and God. From the first few pages of the book, we are confronted with the fact that Hester has mothered a child without being legally betrothed in marriage. When the townspeople notice that Hester has broken one of God’s laws, she is forced to stand in the middle of the town square upon a scaffold for a
period of three hours, all for the purpose of public humiliation. Since adultery is one of the highest crimes that a mortal can commit in a Puritanical society, a tribunal quickly forms to decide that fate of the young malefactor. All the while, it could have been possible for Hester to abandon the baby to save herself from public torment and possibly the penalty of death. Nonetheless, Hester faces up to the reality of her acts and takes direct responsibility for them. To go even further, she does not even reveal the father of her illegitimate child for fear that he may suffer a fate worse than her own, which would most certainly be death. At the end of the period of time that she had to serve upon the scaffold, a crowd decides her punishment which was to wear the depiction of “The Scarlet Letter” on her breast.
Hester Prynne must put up with the taunting and social exile of her punishment from the second after she was condemned. The townspeople would consider her as an untouchable heathen who only only aired negative, evil energy. Children would be afraid of both Hester and Pearl as they casually walked down the street, deriding the two of them as if they were something less than human. In a sense, the children were not to blame for their actions. The children had merely learned their distinctive behaviors from the adult inhabitants of the town, who were the most prominent displayers of hate and abhorrence towards the mother and child. It is mentioned in the novel that Hester Prynne had been spotted
“dancing in the woods with the Man In Black” and is often accused of practicing the work of the devil. These are all prominent examples of lies that the community has conceived in...