The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne Characterization Essay

1654 words - 7 pages

The Scarlet Letter Characterization LetterThe Scarlet Letter is a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne that follows the story of Hester Prynne and her sinful path with another Puritan. Hester is a character with strength and courage, which is shown by Hawthorne as Hester's actions result in the Puritan society changing the letter's meaning. Dimmesdale does not have the same strength and courage that Hester does. Instead, Hawthorne characterizes him as a weak man who puts his public image before his private image. Even in the end Dimmesdale left Hester, alone, to deal with the fallout of his confession.A marked woman from the beginning, Hester faced the scorn of the Puritan community with resolve. Hawthorne was able to show this through the many different sides of Hester Prynne's character, beginning with her name. Hester means star; stars are bright and bring attention to themselves, just as she was forced to do by being made to wear the scarlet letter. Prynne is a play on the word prim, and also the phrase, "prim and proper," which Hester isn't in the eyes of the Puritan community, since she had an extramarital affair with Dimmesdale. It also relates to how Puritan society is "prim and proper," not allowing much expression or rebelliousness. Hawthorne uses this name because it helps describe what occurred in Hester Prynne's life, which leads to her having to wear the scarlet A.Once Hester was punished and the scarlet letter introduced, Hawthorne defines both Hester and the scarlet letter at that moment. When it is first shown to the townspeople, Hester had a "burning blush, [but also] a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed…" on her face (Hawthorne, 50). Instead of cowering and hiding her scarlet letter, Hester shows it off in a way that infuriates the Puritan community because they want her to feel ashamed, not proud. By not expressing outward nervousness, Hester is introduced to us as a woman of courage and strength. This valor continues as she is asked repeatedly to speak the name of the man "who tempted [Hester] to this grievous fall," but she will not speak the name, instead insisting that the "child must seek a heavenly Father [because] she shall never know an earthly one" (Hawthorne, 62-63). Hester defies the ministers who exert much power over the people of Boston, showing her might and resolve to preserve the name of the father. This resolve shows that Hester is loyal and able to withstand the scorn of the Puritan society on her own.Through Hester's determination to not let the scarlet letter make her feel inferior, she is able to change the letter's meaning. No longer did the scarlet letter stand for "adulterer," instead due to the "helpfulness found in [Hester],-- so much power to do, and power to sympathize,-- that many people" felt the letter now "meant Able" (Hawthorne, 141). Hester had "nothing to lose" and only "a genuine regard for virtue" when helping those with less than her. Bearing the scarlet letter for seven...

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