Literary Criticism Of Hester Prynne

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The character Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is one who is criticized by literary critic D.H. Lawrence. He underscores her flaws and sinful nature, denouncing Hawthorne’s portrayal of Hester as a heroine. In his essay, “On The Scarlet Letter,” Lawrence critiques the way Hester Prynne is depicted through terse syntax, biblical allusions, and a satirical tone. The choppy and abrupt way in which Lawrence arranges his sentences serves as direct jabs at Hester Prynne in order to villainize her with impact and clarity. Rather than phrasing his ideas in lengthy and elaborate sentences, he captures the central point of his statements by utilizing sharp and straightforward expressions. For example, he accentuates certain…show more content…
Alpha. Abel, Adam. A” (Lawrence). His writing resembles bullets in that he ‘shoots’ Hester down, as a bullet would do, with his pithy remarks. These single-worded expressions convey that Lawrence seeks to reveal Hester’s true character, different from Hawthorne’s presentation of her. Lawrence expresses an aversion of Hester Prynne as he articulates his evaluation of the character with sharp, emphatic syntax. Further rebuking Hester, he describes Hester’s sinful nature as being “fixed in a lie, adhering to a lie, giving itself perpetually [to] the lie” (Lawrence). Again, through syntax in which he uses parallel, but choppy, sentence structure, Lawrence is able to stress certain parts of his statement, such as the “lie” in which Hester’s sinful nature is perpetuated. Though the sentence itself is not particularly short, the phrases within it are sectioned off into their own parts due to the paralleled construction of the sentence; this creates a sense of choppiness and abruptness, and also…show more content…
He mocks Hester through these allusions, juxtaposing her with outside references to legitimize his criticism. Alluding to Virgin Mary, he calls Hester the “image of Divine Maternity” and “sinless Motherhood,” though he is actually suggesting the exact opposite, displaying the irony that is present throughout his argument (Lawrence). Lawrence ridicules Hester by comparing her to a figure who is unanimously known to be pure, “divine,” and “sinless,” though it is clear that thinks otherwise of Hester Prynne. He employs irony in his writing through the use of allusions to amplify his disagreement with Hawthorne’s portrayal of Hester; it is evident, through the ironic allusions, that Lawrence is mocking Hester. Hester is then compared to Abel, as Lawrence explains that “she lives on and is Abel” after Dimmesdale’s death (Lawrence). Here, he magnifies Hester’s masked sinfulness by mockingly classifying her as Abel, the victim of sin, mirroring the way she is portrayed by Hawthorne in the book. Though comparing her to Cain would have made more logical sense, Lawrence explicitly states that Hester is Abel, in order to induce more irony. This ironic allusion and paralleling of Hester and Abel aid in translating his ideas in a way that is counterintuitive in order to reveal her true nature and solidify his views

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