In "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, what was the effect of the scarlet letter on Hester's personality, health, and abilities?If possible a chapter reference would be helpful so i can...

In "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, what was the effect of the scarlet letter on Hester's personality, health, and abilities?

If possible a chapter reference would be helpful so i can cite a quote.

Asked on by mike112

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In terms of her personality, the scarlet letter (and perhaps the sin behind it) caused Hester to be preoccupied with punishing herself so as to be able to (hopefully) eventually forgive herself for what she has done.

Hester did not have to stay in the community where everyone knew her.  She could have gone somewhere else where her guilt would not have been known.  But instead she chose to stay and face the condemnation of the community.  As Hawthorne explains (Chapter 5)

Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom.

As it turns out, she does eventually manage to purge herself of the sin and becomes a respected member of the community.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In the book "The Scarlet Letter," Hester Pyrne became a stronger woman who found her own self pride and convictions after having been forced to wear the scarlet letter.  Hester, rather than succumb to the indignity of her predicament, chose to hold her head up high.  She wore the letter in a manner that it reflected back on the people who wanted it to damage her.  She maintained her silence about who she had slept with which frustrated her husband and at the same time created curiosity among the townspeople.

The townspeople could not totally avoid Hester because they needed her.  She built her own business making fine clothing which placed a dependency from the townspeople on her skills.  In addition, she refused to allow her child to be hidden.  She dressed her in beautiful clothing.  The scarlet dress that Pearl wore also served to reflect her sin towards the others.

Hester left the community and years later returned.  She became a confident to women around the countryside.  Her strength and confidence made her the very person that woman could talk with about their own fears and secrets. 

By wearing the scarlet letter the way that she did, Hester maintained good health, but the Reverend Dimmsdale, who had to hide his identify as an adulterer, experienced diminishing health until it ended his life.

 

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