The strict Puritan code in the mid seventeenth century is evident in The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel addresses the issue of adultery and the intensity of the sin. Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale commit the sin of adultery and face challenges inflicted upon them by the Puritan society and personal values. Nathaniel Hawthorne centers the plot of his novel The Scarlet Letter on the four major characters, Hester Prynne, Pearl, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth, analyzing their physical appearances, personalities, and roles.
In contrast to the typical Puritan women in Boston, Hawthorne depicts the female protagonist of The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, as physically discrete. Hester has a perfect figure, a rich complexion, dark hair, and deep eyes. She dresses in modest clothing, but the symbol of her sin, the golden embroidered scarlet letter, remains the focus of her attire (Bloom 219). Hester’s breathtaking features and the scarlet letter give her a sense of individuality.
Hester’s principal qualities of strength and honesty are revealed throughout the novel. Her strength is seen in her actions after her sin is revealed. Foremost, she thinks of her adultery as an act committed out of passion and denies the belief that man’s nature is corrupt (McPherson 86). Keeping the identity of her lover a secret, Hester accepts the punishment inflicted upon her alone (Bloom 219). She decides to stay on the outskirts of Boston, refusing to escape from her place of punishment (Heims 62). Hester also fights to keep Pearl, declaring that the authorities have no right to take Pearl away (Bloom 220). Hester’s second attribute of honesty is shown through her communicat...
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...ult, Chillingworth is referred to as Satan’s emissary (106). On the road to vengeance, Chillingworth loses his humanity too. He feels no sympathy for Pearl when the authorities threaten to take her away from Hester (McPherson 85).
The course of action that each character takes drives the plot of the story. Hester acts as the protagonist, Pearl as the symbol of sin, Dimmesdale as the victim, and Chillingworth as the antagonist. In the puritanical society of Boston, Hester is publically humiliated, and Dimmesdale struggles with internal guilt. Chillingworth attempts to afflict Dimmesdale as means to seek revenge. In contrast, Pearl guides Hester and Dimmesdale to the acceptance of their sin. Nathaniel Hawthorne characterizes Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth through their mien, disposition, and function in order to mold the storyline of The Scarlet Letter.
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