Why does Hester choose to not leave her town in The Scarlet Letter?

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kcoleman2016 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her chest to display her shame to everyone with whom she interacts. She could easily slip away from her community, remove the "A", and live anonymously in a new community, either in the New World or in England. However, Hester chooses to stay, a decision that confuses many readers.

To understand her reasoning, the reader has to better understand Hester herself: she is not a rebel. Hester is a Puritan woman, and she believes in the doctrines of her fate. As a result, she believes that she has sinned and deserves to be punished. If she were to leave and live in anonymity, thereby escaping her penance, she would be continuing to sin. Instead, she chooses to carry out what she believes is a just punishment for her immoral crime. 

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