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In The Scarlet Letter, why was Hester ultimately able to escape the "burning torture"...

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AnnD1 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:27 PM via web

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In The Scarlet Letter, why was Hester ultimately able to escape the "burning torture" (267) of the scarlet letter upon her chest, but Dimmesdale was not?

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 21, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Answer #1)

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In The Scarlet Letter, Hester is ultimately able to escape the "burning torture" of the scarlet letter because she re-imagines what that letter actually means for her and her life.  Intended as a brand and a punishment by the magistrates, the scarlet letter is eventually welcomed by Hester.  When she first receives the mandate to wear it upon her breast, she embroiders the letter suggesting that its true meaning is not as "ugly" as others would make it out to be.  As time goes on, Hester says that she has learned valuable lessons about herself from having to wear the letter.  Even at the end of the novel, when Dimmesdale has died and Pearl is gone, Hester--although living on the outskirts of the community--continues to wear the letter.  

Dimmesdale, on the other hand, cannot reconcile his moral values with the sin that he has committed.  He cannot admit to the people that he has sinned, and he cannot fully realize that his actions may have been based in love, not sin.  Even at his confession, he does not admit any sort of love for either Hester or Pearl, and thus he is not absolved and dies a lonely death.

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