What is an example of an inference that you could make about the character of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter through her actions?

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sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To make an inference means to draw conclusions from the data with which you have to work. In the case of any work of literature, it is the author's words which are your data. In the case of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne has given the reader a great deal of data from which to draw conclusions. Furthermore, as the novel progresses to its climax, the reader learns much more about Hester through her actions. From the very beginning of the tale one can infer that she is proud; she refuses to give in to the mockery of the gossiping villagers. She wears her letter without trying to cover it. She stands silent during her ordeal on the scaffold, looking right out at her audience. She is also stubborn, refusing to give the name of her partner-in-sin, the father of her baby. She is a good mother; she takes good care of her daughter. She is brave and kind; she endures her poor treatment at the hands of her neighbors without indulging in bitterness or meanness herself. Her behavior is so impeccable that eventually it makes her neighbors feel ashamed of the way they have treated her.

npoore84 | Student

The letter that Hester Prynne wears on her chest for the entire novel is an example of symbolism as well as inferences. Literally the A that Hester wears on her chest represents adultery. Symbolically it represents what Hester became to herself. People in the community began to identify a mystical aura inferring that she was in contact with sin and the devil. Yet, what can be inferred about the changes that came over Hester is that she gave back to the community through service. The scarlet letter“ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became… looked upon with awe, yet reverence, too,” (page 204). The letter eventually transforms to reflect the life that Hester lived, of charity and community service. Yet she will only be be remembered by what the letter represented: sin. The letter itself takes the lengthy journey from a symbol of sin, to that of charity, to that of remembrance. 

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The Scarlet Letter

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