The Influence Of Hester Prynne In The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of a young woman’s struggle to remain true to herself despite society’s influence. After committing adultery with the Reverend Dimmesdale, this young woman, Hester Prynne, is branded with a scarlet letter A to signify her sin and humiliation. While at first, Hester refuses to give in the society’s influence, she conforms to Puritan standards by the end of the novel. From the start of the book to the end, a dramatic change in Hester’s attitude is apparent. In contrast with her initial character, Hester Prynne is portrayed as a dull, melancholy, and defeated figure at the end of the novel. Her initial defiant attitude and refusal to conform to Puritan expectations marks her as an individual …show more content…
From the moment she steps out of the prison, Hester acts defiant: “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” (36). In Puritan society during the mid-17th century, those who committed sin were expected to be ashamed and repentant. Hester’s attitude, however, is marked by a sense of pride and honor. Instead of hanging her head, Hester fights to retain her dignity as she exits the prison. Not only is this attitude apparent through her actions, but also through her appearance. When she emerges out of the prison, she wears a lavishly embroidered, scarlet letter described as “greatly beyond what was allowed by sumptuary regulations of the colony” (37). This lavish embroidery marks her sin with a sense of beauty, which contrasts directly with the shame and repentance that the Puritans associate with her adultery. By representing her sin by a beautiful letter A, Hester rebels against Puritan disapproval. Additionally, the scarlet letter also labels her as an individual because it “had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself” (37). The ordinary relations involved conformity to Puritan values, so Hester, with her rebellious …show more content…
The first signs of conformity are apparent through a shift in the Hester’s public image and a change Hester’s own demeanor. Seven years after committing her sin, Hester loses her rebellious fire, as shown by her quiet submittance to the public and integration into the Puritan community. To some townspeople, the meaning of the scarlet letter even changes from Adulteress to Able to signify Hester’s strength and ability to sympathize with and relieve the sufferings of others. Eventually, even the rulers of the Puritans “[began] to look upon the scarlet letter as a token, not of that one sin...but of her many good deeds since” (111). Although Hester attempts to rebel against the iron framework, her actions conform to Puritan expectations: she gloomily accepts her humiliation and turns her energies to helping the sick. Her personality also loses its original beautiful glow that made her stand out in the dull environment of Puritans: “All the light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up...and had long ago fallen away, leaving a bare and harsh outline” (112). Her previous energy and spirit is diminished and replaced by dull and more serious character that borders on the line of depression. Her appearance undergoes a similar change: her clothing becomes more serious, her hair is cut short and hidden away, and her spirit diminishes.

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