In regards to The Scarlet Letter: What does Hawthorne view as the role of suffering in the human condition?Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nathaniel Hawthorne used the character of Hester Prynne as social and moral scapegoat whom society felt free to judge, condemn, and accuse at their leisure.

However, he was wise in his characterization of Hester for she was an independent, morally unbound, passionate, and self -sufficient woman who withstood like a warrior all the mockery and hurt that the hypocritical settlers bestowed upon her with their "holier than thou" attitudes.

Moreover, he made Hester a strong-willed woman who would stand by her word, by what she believed in, and even by Dimmesdale: She was incapable of accusing him of what he did to her, and she preferred that he kept a life without the troubles that awaited her own life. 

Yet, within all her strength, Hester did suffer. She simply suffered stoically and with less rancor than a weaker person would have suffered. This suffering, by her own admission, was precisely what made her stronger and less bound to fall for the trivialities of life. It was pain which made her more protective of her daughter; her isolation made her more aware of the needs of others for whom she was always available. 

In other words, Hawthorne viewed suffering as a necessary catalyst in the lives of individuals. One that would transform us into stronger individuals, more resilient, and more able to understand the depths of humanity by bringing us closer to our own needs.

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The Scarlet Letter

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