In The Scarlet Letter, when Hester left prison, what did she have to look forward to?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might want to analyse Chapter Five to answer this question, which narrates what happens to Hester at the end of her time in prison, and, in particular, the kind of future she could expect after being identified as a public figure of shame. Clearly, in the Puritan society in which Hester lives, such an act of bearing a child out of wedlock is to invite social censure, and this is something that the narrator strongly indicates in terms of the kind of future that Hester Prynne could expect. Note what we are told at the beginning of this chapter:

The days of the future would toil onward; still with the same burden for her to take up and bear along with her, but never to fling down' for the accumulating days and added years would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame. Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and morlaist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion.

Thus Hester's future does not look too bright. She can only expect to be singled out and looked upon as a bad example, of what happens if you let sin control your life. She will be objectified thanks to the scarlet letter that she is forced to bear on her breast, and refered to by preachers as an example of what can happen if you do not remain upright and moral.

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The Scarlet Letter

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