Nathaniel Hawthorn’s ‘The Scarlett Letter’ is a book about a woman who committed adultery with another man and had a child named Pearl. She is the main character in this story. She is first described after she gets released from prison as a young woman ‘marked with natural dignity and force of character’ (Hawthorn 80). She is described to be dignified woman, beautiful but strong. She is dressed in a scarlet letter “A” on her chest made from fine red cloth, and gold thread. The “A” a symbol of her adultery, and a mark for all to see.
Although Hester is described and beautiful, it is nothing compared to her strength. Even with the Scarlett Letter, and the ridicule that she gets from the townspeople she never breaks. Throughout the book she remains strong, kind and humble. Contrary to popular belief she is shameful about what happened with Dimmesdale. She is honest about the affair but isolates herself from society after prison. She loves Pearl and has faith in the fact that god gave her pearl for a reason. Hester is also trustworthy and honest. She never gives up Dimmesdale’s name to her husband but doesn’t lie about the affair either. She is “the one trusted friend, to whom should be confided all the fear, the remorse, the agony, the ineffectual repentance, the backward rush of sinful thoughts, expelled in vain!” (Hawthorn 209).
Hester’s character grows and changes as the story continues. She becomes more compassionate, kind, and compassionate. She gains more of a motherly attitude toward things as time goes on. She becomes more conscious of her actions and behavior as well as her tendencies to be rash towards Pearl for fear of her leaving. Near the end of the book she becomes more of a mother figure to the whole community. She accepts what happened with Dimmesdale and her shame about the scarlet letter is gone. She decides to “resolved not to be pilloried beside her on her pedestal of shame”. (Hawthorne 176)
Hester is shown as intelligent, but not extraordinary. It is the stuff that happens to her throughout the book that makes her who she is and such an important figure in the book. It is what happens after the affair that the readers know of her and very little of what happened before the affair. We know that she is married to Dimmesdale but does not love him. We never quite fully understand why though. Hester may act like a Puritan woman but Hawthorn states “Some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been essential to keep her a woman. Such is frequently the fate, and such the stern development, of the feminine character and person, when the woman has encountered, and lived through, an experience of peculiar severity.
If she be all tenderness, she will die. If she survives, the tenderness will either be crushed out of her, or”and the outward semblance is the same”crushed so deeply into her heart that it can never show itself more. The latter is the truest theory. She who has once been a woman, and ceased to be so, might at any moment become a woman again, if there were only the magic touch to effect the transformation.” (246). I believe that he is trying to state that even through tough times can crush most people. Hester is stronger than most and plays off her more troublous side.