Hester's Deconstruction of Puritan Ideals in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Hester's Deconstruction of Puritan Ideals in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Length: 755 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Scarlet Letter - Hester's  Deconstruction of Puritan Ideals

    Hester, the protagonist in Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, effectively challenges the efforts of the Puritan theocracy to define her, and at the same time, contain the threat she poses to the social order.


Throughout the novel Hester bears the mark of an "A" embroidered on her chest which was originally intended to label her as a social outcast, more specifically an adulteress to the rest of society. She wears the "A" for many years after she bears her "illegitimate" child with virtually no objection. She graciously accepts the punishment bestowed upon her by the strict Puritanical decree that rules, unimpeded, over the New England town where she finds residence. But as the novel progresses Hester remains subservient, dutiful and humble, living in slight seclusion with her child on the edge of town. Hawthorne writes:


As was usually the case wherever Hester stood, a small, vacant area - a sort of magic circle - had formed itself about her, into which, though the people were elbowing one another at a little distance, none ventured, or felt disposed to intrude. It was a forcible type of the moral solitude in which the scarlet letter enveloped its fated wearer; partly by her own reserve, and partly by the instinctive, though no longer so unkindly, withdrawal of her fellow-creatures (Hawthorne 181).


This excerpt from the text shows how Hester does, to some extent, impose strict limits upon herself which she lives by, and which helps to reinforce her punishment, and at the same time preserve and show respect to the Puritan theocracy. Hester cooperatively plays the role of the scapegoat for the rest of soci...

... middle of paper ...

...forts of the Puritan theocracy as she refuses to divulge the identity of her fellow adulterer, revealing a weakness in the governance and facilitating her with a certain sense of power. This power Hester experiences, along with her child, are her testimony to the contribution she makes in the deconstruction of some patriarchal Puritan ideals. But at the same time Hester does lead a virtuous life that harmonizes quite well with this Puritan theocracy, this enables Hester to deconstruct parts of the social order at its very source. The upright way of life that Hester chose to live by, after time, resulted in a near metamorphosis of the originally stigmatized definition that the letter "A" held in society, to one that carried a much more positive connotation.


Work Cited:

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

- The Puritan society was extremely restricting. They had strict laws and rules, and harsh punishments for even the smallest of misdemeanors. They lived with only the bare necessities and discouraged uniqueness or boldness. As a Romantic writer, with beliefs the complete opposite of the Puritans, Nathaniel Hawthorne was very critical of the Puritan’s strict society. In the allegorical novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the characters of Hester Prynne, Reverend Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth order to convey the central moral of rejecting societal ideals and acting upon one 's own desires and emotions....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Better Essays
1476 words (4.2 pages)

The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

- Literature and language is a powerful tool. It has the capabilities to move audiences, transform and mold societies, and give insights to a civilization’s thoughts. The feminist and transcendentalist movements occurred nearly simultaneously in history and pushed each other with their growing popularity. Feminism and transcendentalism boiled down to major components is the equality of women and men in society and individual thoughts, respectfully. The Scarlet Letter can be considered a feminist novel through the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, use of transcendentalist ideals to highlight universal women equality through the lead female characters’ actions....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Better Essays
982 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

- Written in a time when the role of females in society was nothing more than homemaking and childbearing, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter explores the reaction of society to a woman whose revolutionary attitude and demeanor caused debate both within and beyond the lines of the text. Through the powerful influence and contrast of the main character, Hester Prynne, Hawthorne’s novel shows the effect of such a powerful woman on society. The Contrast of Hester Versus Dimmesdale Authors have a reason for everything that they do, and in the case of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne’s stark contrast between the characters Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale is no accident....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Better Essays
1123 words (3.2 pages)

The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay example

- Nathaniel Hawthorne’s family background greatly influences the themes and central conflicts within many of his works. Growing up, Hawthorne learned of his ancestors’ lifestyle and their devotion to the Puritan religion. The constricting and harsh values of the religion troubled Hawthorne, and his guilt for his ancestors’ way of life translates into his literature. Hawthorne’s use of the theme of religious hypocrisy impacts the characterization and in turn the plot of many of his works, including The Scarlet Letter, The Minister’s Black Veil, and Young Goodman Brown....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Puritan]

Better Essays
950 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

- In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne believed that women should be allowed to rise above the stereotypical puritan values. He thinks in many ways that women were strong and had greater character than most men. Hester Prynne was the embodiment of Hawthorne 's forward thinking views and ideals. Women of this time were not thought of as able to overcome hardships and trials because they were considered weak, but Hawthorne showed throughout the novel how women can be strong individuals. Although Hawthorne classifies Hester as being strong and self- sufficient, The Scarlet Letter fails to overcome the hypocritical patriarchal values of Hawthorne’s time because to be a woman, one must be strong, sacri...   [tags: The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne]

Better Essays
1228 words (3.5 pages)

Hypocrisy By Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter Essay

- Hypocrisy is often seen as being one of the most vile displays of human nature. An unavoidable manifestation of the human being, hypocrisy has run rampant in daily life for the existence of humanity. The Scarlet Letter is essentially a story about hypocrisy and its consequences. Set in 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Puritan lifestyle controls much of the society. Its people are expected to follow the strict religious ideals. If one was to break the rules, harsh punishments would ensue. When news spreads that one of their own, Hester Prynne, has committed the sin of adultery, they are quick to judge Hester for her sins....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter]

Better Essays
905 words (2.6 pages)

Analysis Of Nathaniel Hawthorne 's ' The Scarlet Letter ' Essay

- Nathaniel Hawthorne 's Belief in the Puritan Religion. Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the most popular and influential writers of his time. Known for many of his short stories such as “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, “The Gentle Boy”, and “Endicott and the Red Cross”. Most famously Hawthorne is known for his book “The Scarlet Letter” written and published in 1850. One typical link in all of his works was the common protagonists were Puritans. Although at first glance Puritans in Hawthorne 's works seem to play the bad guy character they often are more rational with their beliefs....   [tags: Puritan, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Better Essays
2103 words (6 pages)

Essay about Hester's Romantic Ideals in The Scarlet Letter

- “Be true. Be true. Be true!” (202). This powerful and simple message can be seen throughout the novel The Scarlet Letter. The characters Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale portray this message clearly. Hester lived this message. She was very true to herself and wore her “A” proudly giving her a more fulfilling life. She was true to herself and everyone around her allowing her to make her own experience, a concept the Romantics values greatly. Romantic literature portrays messages and characters like the ones in The Scarlet Letter to explain the value of truth and experience....   [tags: Lliterary Analysis, Character Development]

Better Essays
897 words (2.6 pages)

Essay about Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter

- Chapter 1- This chapter sets the scene for the following chapter and partially introduces us to our protagonist. Hawthorne immediately implements symbols that will likely play a role throughout the rest of the book. He also offers many possible meanings for the rosebush outside the prison, but ultimately decides to leave it up to the reader. Hawthorne also introduces puritan ideals, and the creation of a prison almost immediately plays into the puritan ideal of all people being born with sin. Chapter 2- This chapter formally introduces our protagonist, Hester Prynne, and she is seen walking out of the prison in the first scene....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, John Winthrop]

Better Essays
2375 words (6.8 pages)

Justification of Hester in The Scarlet Letter Essay

- In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne commits adultery, a disgraceful sin, and she is severely punished. Yet although her sin was not a good choice, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, attempts to justify her actions. His writing indicates that he does not accept of her behavior but that it was not completely her fault. Being a Puritan, Hester was forced into one way of life, the only acceptable way in the eyes of her community. This pressure to adhere to numerous strict rules was metaphorically compared to a difficult journey down a narrow, winding road in the forest with little light....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Free Essays
1015 words (2.9 pages)