(Click the themes infographic to download.)
You hear about an awesome party happening in the Valley. Only problem is, if you go, you know you'll end up being at least half an hour late for your curfew. (Even though everywhere in L.A. takes twenty minutes.) Do you (1) ask for permission and grudgingly obey when your parents say no, or (2) go and beg for forgiveness later?
If you answered (1), congrats! You'd fit right in with the Puritans, who are a legalistic crew: they believe that your best bet to get to heaven is to conform to strict set of religious and social laws. If you answered (2), you'd probably fit in better with a religion that emphasizes grace: being forgiven for your sins through faith. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne shows us an essentially legalistic society, with its inhabitants adhering to strict moral codes, and punishing and isolating transgressors. But the narrator disagrees. Maybe, he says, a religious society should be ruled by grace—and, at the end of the novel, Hester has been forgiven by the strict society that once punished her.
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Although Hester Prynne is judged and punished in a legalistic society, she transforms her scarlet letter into a symbol of grace rather than shame.
Even though Reverend Dimmesdale avoids confessing his sin for seven years because he fears the wrath of a legalistic society, he finds grace through confession in the last moments of his death.
During the first scaffold scene, Nathaniel Hawthorne notes her “natural dignity and force of character. ” Her poise under scrutiny is remarkable during this significant scene. Her might is also evident in her dealings with both her husband, Roger Chlorinating, and also her lover, Reverend Arthur Timescale. Hester repeatedly denies Chlorinating the satisfaction of knowing her fellow sinner. And In the forest scene, Timescale acknowledges that she has the strength he lacks and he calls on her help In his time of need.
Also, she shows honesty by openly recognizing her sin, unlike Timescale who hides and is weakened. Hester is beautiful not only on the inside, but also physically attractive on the outside. Hester corporal beauty is first mentioned during the original scaffold scene, when she Is described as a tall young woman with a “figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. ” Her most imposing feature Is her elegant glossy hair, which Is let loose and blows freely In the wind. Seven years after her punishment for her sin though, that tatty is gone.
Her glossy hair is hidden under a cap and her warmth is diminished, buried under the elaborate scarlet letter. When she does eventually remove the emblem, she instantly regains the beauty she possessed earlier. Pearl, unhappy with her mother’s change, demands that she reattach the scarlet “A”. Although the letter does cloud her beauty, It does gain her a respect In the Puritan society through time. Directly after being punished during the flirts scaffold scene, Hester and Pearl and remove from society.
They are forced to live on the outskirts of town, surviving by her skill with a thread and needle. Honesty does prevail; Hester openly acknowledges her sin and done not attempt to hide it. For this, the townspeople begin to admire her and increasingly reacted her into society. Being as strong as she is, Hester does not need the recognition because she is content with herself. In the end, Timescale dies after his public confession and Chlorinating dies consumed by halls own hatred and revenge, but Hester lives on, quietly, and becomes something of a legend in the loony.
Through peace and satisfaction, Hester Journeys from a normal young woman living in Puritan society, to a social outcast residing on the outskirts of the forest; then, as though a reward from God, she rises above all others and into the hearts of many, sharing her compassion and giving strength to all that remember her. Nile her physical beauty and social status alter greatly, both for the good and bad. Hester, as beautiful as she is, cannot be perfect. But her honesty, compassion, and strength are more than enough to relieve her soul.