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The Scarlet Letter

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The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the first case of knowledge being gained through a sinful experience. Many years later this same theme is again depicted in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which Hester goes through much persecution as the result of a sinful incident. This persecution leads to her personal growth, gained sympathy, and expanded understanding of others. With these gained lessons however, comes the realization that these ideals are unattainable while living in a state of purity.

Through much persecution, alienation, and discrimination Hester Prynne was forced to grow as a person, despite the fact that her neighbors continued to go on as they were. As early in her persecution as when she is forced to stand on the scaffold, Hester's growth can be detected. The book describes this demonstration of growth:

"...the mother of this child stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token, which was wrought or fastened into her dress. In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush. and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors."

This passage displays how Hester realizes early on that she is going to have to be strong since there is no true way to hide what she has done. Then the story goes on to display more strength in Hester, "...after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, inanitque interpretation of the term, that as she issued from the prison. Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled. to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped." It was not only the way that she help herself, while on that scaffold for all to see, that displayed her personal strength and growth, but also how fantastically she had embroidered the scarlet letter onto the bosom of her dress. "She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain," commented one of the puritans. Later in the story the reader comes to find a more prominent display of Hester's newfound strength when she is asked to reveal her sinful partner and she replies that she will not unveil her partner in this crime. "Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman's heart! She will not speak!"

This is a prime example of Hester's strength and resilience against the puritans who mock her, admitted by Chillingworth. Although the puritans made compliments of her handy needle work, and were willing to point out her strength in secrecy they still remained small minded ignorant people. leaving the reader with a find display of just how much growth in Hester had occurred through her sinful experience. The coldness of the puritans can be seen in many passages carrying the same tone, such as this, "...she will be living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her tombstone..." This just goes to show how the puritans cared little about the person; as much as they cared about the lesson they could use her to teach. Hester, disregarding the cruelty of her neighbors, remained in Boston, as to not allow them to win and push her away with their brutality. Due to her extensive alienation, as she stayed, she was forced to grow even stronger, she used her skills to support herself and her child, "...without a friend on earth who dared to show himself, she, however, incurred no risk of want. She possessed an art that sufficed even in a land that afforded comparatively little scope for its exercise, to supply food for her thriving infant and herself. It was the art--then, as now, almost the only one within a woman's grasp--of needlework." Even displaying herself as a sturdy, self-sufficient, and competent woman couldn't bring to an end the bigotry. Hester, however, managed to take



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