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Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper

Sarah DeHaven

Hester’s Experiences

Throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester’s experiences in and out of the Puritan society and the weight of the scarlet letter change her in many ways, including her level of confidence, her appearance and her outlook on the Puritan people, and the way she feels about the letter “A”. Due to the sin committed by Hester she became the outcast of the Puritan community. She was forced to begin a new life on her own with no support from anyone. The sudden vicissitudes in her life cause a great transformation in Hester.

In the beginning of the novel Hester shows a tremendous amount of confidence, which she is not afraid to show, but eventually she hides this boldness and yields to the torment of the Puritan people. When Hester is being led out of the jail by the town beadle “she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will.” (Pg 60) By stepping out of the jail like this Hester showed and amazing amount of courage, knowing that she was about to receive the peoples’ mockery. While Hester displayed confidence here, later in the novel she doesn’t show that assurance as much, and receives the ridicule with embarrassment and broken heartedness. The people of the town “were accustomed to distill drops of bitterness into her heart” but “Hester had schooled herself long and well; she never responded to these attacks, save by a flush of crimson that rose irrepressibly over

the pale cheek.” (Pg 88) Hester emerged from the jail with strength but was forced to change, and hide this strength to get along the best she could and continue to support herself and her daughter.

Living outside of the Puritan society allowed Hester to change the way she saw the people of the town and the way she looked herself. Hester lived on the outskirts of town and was no longer a real part of the community, because of this she was able to see people from a different point of view. “The scarlet letter had endowed her with a new sense. She shuddered to believe that it gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts.” (Pg 89) Also Hester’s appearance changed. Living away from the Puritan society and the constant presence of the scarlet letter caused this. Hester was once a “young woman with a figure of perfect elegance and dark abundant hair and a face so beautiful.” (Pg 60) The effect of the symbol caused “ all the light and graceful foliage of her character to whither up by this red-hot brand.” (Pg 157) She changed form an attractive person to a harsh repulsive figure.

At the end of the novel, Hester was no longer completely ashamed of her letter “A” but actually had some pride in wearing it. The scarlet letter was given to Hester as a form of punishment for her sin and caused extreme embarrassment. “Continually did she fell the innumerable throbs of anguish that had been so convincingly contrived for her by the undying, the ever active sentence of the Puritan tribunal.” (Pg 88) Though embarrassed, Hester still did good things and ended up wearing the letter with pride. “Such helpfulness was found in her that many

people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original signification. They said that it meant “Able.” (Pg 156) Hester could go into town without people looking at her as though she were evil.

Being branded with the scarlet letter allowed Hester to change in many ways, most of which led her to become a better person. The scarlet A permitted Hester to leave the conformity of the Puritan community and form her own perspectives and opinions. The larger idea presented to us by Hester’s transformation is that sometimes people that are perceives as being sinful or improper are really the better people overall.

Sarah DeHaven

Hester’s Experiences

Throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester’s experiences in and out of the Puritan society and the weight of the scarlet letter change her in many ways, including her level of confidence, her appearance and her outlook on the Puritan people, and the way she feels about the letter “A”. Due to the sin committed by Hester she became the outcast of the Puritan community. She was forced to begin a new life on her own with no support from anyone. The sudden vicissitudes in her life cause a great transformation in Hester.

In the beginning of the novel Hester shows a tremendous amount of confidence, which she is not afraid to show, but eventually she hides this boldness and yields to the torment of the Puritan people. When Hester is being led out of the jail by the town beadle “she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will.” (Pg 60) By stepping out of the jail like this Hester showed and amazing amount of courage, knowing that she was about to receive the peoples’ mockery. While Hester displayed confidence here, later in the novel she doesn’t show that assurance as much, and receives the ridicule with embarrassment and broken heartedness. The people of the town “were accustomed to distill drops of bitterness into her heart” but “Hester had schooled herself long and well; she never responded to these attacks, save by a flush of crimson that rose irrepressibly over

the pale cheek.” (Pg 88) Hester emerged from the jail with strength but was forced to change, and hide this strength to get along the best she could and continue to support herself and her daughter.

Living outside of the Puritan society allowed Hester to change the way she saw the people of the town and the way she looked herself. Hester lived on the outskirts of town and was no longer a real part of the community, because of this she was able to see people from a different point of view. “The scarlet letter had endowed her with a new sense. She shuddered to believe that it gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts.” (Pg 89) Also Hester’s appearance changed. Living away from the Puritan society and the constant presence of the scarlet letter caused this. Hester was once a “young woman with a figure of perfect elegance and dark abundant hair and a face so beautiful.” (Pg 60) The effect of the symbol caused “ all the light and graceful foliage of her character to whither up by this red-hot brand.” (Pg 157) She changed form an attractive person to a harsh repulsive figure.

At the end of the novel, Hester was no longer completely ashamed of her letter “A” but actually had some pride in wearing it. The scarlet letter was given to Hester as a form of punishment for her sin and caused extreme embarrassment. “Continually did she fell the innumerable throbs of anguish that had been so convincingly contrived for her by the undying, the ever active sentence of the Puritan tribunal.” (Pg 88) Though embarrassed, Hester still did good things and ended up wearing the letter with pride. “Such helpfulness was found in her that many

people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original signification. They said that it meant “Able.” (Pg 156) Hester could go into town without people looking at her as though she were evil.

Being branded with the scarlet letter allowed Hester to change in many ways, most of which led her to become a better person. The scarlet A permitted Hester to leave the conformity of the Puritan community and form her own perspectives and opinions. The larger idea presented to us by Hester’s transformation is that sometimes people that are perceives as being sinful or improper are really the better people overall.


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