Many critics state that Salem’s community restricts Hester Prynne’s freedoms, but I believe that she has a limitless independence that can’t be revoked solely by the scarlet letter.
Hawthorne introduces our protagonist early into the novel. Hester Prynne is a young woman who catches the eye of every man in the crowd. She is described as the pure essence of a beautiful woman. “The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance...She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face...beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion…” (46). Such detail is used to give the reader an image of what she looks like. Hawthorne puts such an emphasis on Hester’s appearance to contrast the true meaning of the scarlet letter. In addition to her beauty, Hester’s husband is also revealed, though subtly. Roger Chillingworth is introduced as a creepy man in the back of the crowd. As Hester returns to the prison after public humiliation upon the scaffold, Chillingworth enters to greet her. As they converse, Chillingworth admits to “‘...betrayed thy budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay’” (63). Although hard to catch, he admits to marrying too early and for not acting as a favorable husband. Leaving Hester alone only spurs her determination to do what she wants. Hester can be viewed as a hero because she does make the decision to commit adultery. A Goodreads.com critic points out that this act is a contributing factor to her self-reliance. Not only does she counteract the stereotypical belief of women during this time period, but she furthers the notion that women can be free to do as they wish. Hester’s previous life begins ...
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...rynne is. Not only does her appearance change, but she even agrees to travel to Europe with Dimmesdale, “‘Thou shalt not go alone!’ answered she, in a deep whisper” (164). This statement is an act of love that has lingered for the past seven years. She is able to say that she can leave because she is in charge of herself, not under the control of a husband. Hester’s independence continues to grow until the final stand upon the scaffold. During election day, Dimmesdale calls Hester and Pearl to which they ...stood out from all the earth to put in his plea of guilty at the bar of Eternal Justice” (208). All three that suffer from the scarlet letter, publically and privately, are able to conclude the novel where it began. Hester final stand required courage to face more public humiliation. Hester’s change from beginning to end portrayed the growth of her self-dependence.
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