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The Growth of Hester in the Scarlet Letter

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Abstract: The Scarlet Letter is a masterpiece of Hawthorne. In this novel, the main character Hester Prynne is definitely a symbolic character who went through difficulties and consequence of breaking the social recognized moral and conventions, regarded as a typical famine character struggling for freedom and independence. In this paper, it intends to analyze the growth of Hester Prynne in the process of her struggle to better understand the protagonist Hester Prynne.

Key words: The scarlet letter, Hester Prynne, struggle, growth

1. Introduction:

In the novel The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it tells a story of a young woman who commits adultery and gives birth to an illegitimate child, Pearl, staying strong when the community give harsh punishment to her. She will not reveal the identity of her daughter Pearl's father. In the end of the novel, Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl's father, confesses to committing such a sin. In this process, Hester undergoes the growth from a shameful scared woman to a strong and brave woman, which will be illustrated in this paper in detail.

2. The growth of Hester

Living in such hard Puritan society, Hester Prynne' adultery is an unacceptable sin, thus Hester had to face the harsh punishment. However, during her suffering, her consciousness and mind changed gradually through the novel, which can be mainly illustrated in three stages in which Hester grows from a shamed woman to a capable and brave woman.

2.1. The first stage: Her haughty appearance being just an act of concealing her deep inside hurting and shamed feeling.

In the beginning of the novel, Hester is portrayed as a young and elegantly beautiful woman, "with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale", who "had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it strew off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion". (Hawthorne, 1992: 78) When she comes out of the jailhouse, a beautifully sewn letter "A" is embroidered onto her breast. Hester acts as if she had done nothing wrong, as if what she faced now is chosen by herself, rather than a punishment. However, her haughty appearance does not accurately reflect the way she is feeling on the inside. "When the young women--the mother of this child--stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seems to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token, which was wrought or fastened to her dress."(Hawthorne, 1992: 78) She covered the symbol of shame-the scarlet letter 'A' on the chest unconsciously and quickly, which indicate that she felt disgrace and shame facing the crowd and their stern -faces looking up at her. When the town people scorned and ridiculed her, she felt hurt and that "her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon".

Hester painfully realized her present position of shame and punishment.

2.2 The second stage: Torment, ridicule, isolation and alienation promoting Hester to grow up

As her punishment starts, Hester is isolated by the town people and lives in a small thatched cottage "on the outskirts of the town, within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation". (Hawthorne, 1992: 104) The solitude encourages Hester to heavily rely on herself for her own well being and also for her daughter, Pearl. She changed her appearance. She hid her beautiful hair under a cap and changed her beautiful clothes to plain and common ones. The "ornament



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