What is the significance of the name "Hester," which means "star," in The Scarlet Letter?

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Stars are fiery orbs filled with heat and light. They are beautiful to behold in the night sky. Hester's name suggests her beauty and her passionate nature. Hawthorne establishes Hester's beauty when she first stands on the scaffold, her infant in her arms:

The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.

Hester's passionate and defiant nature is first noted when she leaves the jail to go to the scaffold. Stepping into the sunlight, she defiantly shakes off the beadle's hand when he touches her shoulder. She wears the garments she has sewn for herself in jail. They reflect her nature:

Her attire, which, indeed, she . . . had modelled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity. 

Also expressive of her rebellious spirit is the scarlet letter she wears; she has embroidered her symbol of shame with beautiful gold thread. Hawthorne writes of Hester's "impulsive and passionate nature." These undoubtedly are the same qualities that drew her into her love affair with Dimmesdale.

As the novel continues, Hester becomes a source of light, as well. She becomes known for her kindness, dedication, and good works within the village, and at the end of her life, she returns to live in the cottage by the sea where she counsels and comforts the women of the village who come to her with their troubles.

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