There are numerous characters in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, that play noteworthy roles. The character that stands out the most is Hester Prynne. Hester changes significantly during the course of the novel. In the beginning of the novel she is conceived as an extreme sinner through the eyes of the Puritans; she has gone against Puritan ways, committing adultery (Chuck). For this irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the rest of her life. However, the Romantic philosophies of Hawthorne put down the Puritanical beliefs (Chuck). She is a beautiful, young woman who has sinned, but is forgiven. Hawthorne portrays Hester as a "divine maternity" and she can do no wrong. Not only Hester, but also the physical scarlet letter, a Puritanical sign of disownment, is shown through the author's style and rhetoric as a beautiful, gold and colorful piece (Chuck). Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne in the novel to convey many different meanings. Hawthorne is more interested in uncovering the flaws of puritan society and the hypocrisy of their reactions to Hester’s sin, than to analyze adultery. Hawthorne uses Hester to scrutinize the Puritan way indirectly, and show the role women should play in society.
The Puritan culture is one that recognizes Protestantism, a sect of Christianity. Though a staple of Christianity is forgiveness for one’s sins, this has long been forgotten amongst the women of Boston: “Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fiber in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding, than in their fair descendants” (Marcus). When Hester is first brought out of her prison cell, it is the gossiping goodwives who keep recommending much harsher punishments, from a brand on her forehead to death. Hester, who had done nothing wrong prior to this sin of adultery, is no longer seen as a human being, but merely as a symbol of evil and shame upon the town....
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