In The Scarlet Letter, why can Hester be seen as a heroine?

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Admittedly, Hester, an adulteress who has a child by a man not her husband, might come across as a hard sell for the heroine of a drama set in Puritan times. Nevertheless, she is the moral center of the novel and the strongest person in it. Unlike both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, she has the courage to do what is right rather than doing what is expedient.

Dimmesdale, though ironically seen as an emblem of purity in his society, wishes he had Hester's strength. Much as he would like to come clean and publicly acknowledge himself as Hester's lover and Pearl's father, he falters at the idea of sacrificing his position and reputation. Likewise, Chillingworth is ashamed to be known as Hester's cuckolded husband, so he has Hester promise to keep their relationship secret. Meanwhile, he goes around in underhanded ways to get revenge on Dimmesdale.

Hester is an admirable character in that she stays and faces up to what she has done, rather than going off with Pearl and starting a new life where...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on November 27, 2019