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Who should punish a sinner a discussion about the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

She's the embodiment of deep contradictions: At first glance, Hester may seem more victim than heroine. The adultery she committed when her husband was thought lost at sea leads Boston's Puritan authorities to brand her with the bright red "A" of the title.

She's forced to stand in shame before the mass of Puritan citizens, enduring their stares, their whispers and their contempt. In the self-righteous eyes of the townspeople, she is the ultimate example of sin. Hester Prynne is also the object of a cruel and shadowy love triangle between herself, her minister lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, and her husband, now called Roger Chillingworth.

Why should Hester be allowed to take the Scarlet Letter off?

How do you know for sure whether your baby is yours? If you don't know if your woman and your child are actually yours, then you have no control over property, no control over social order, no control over anything — and that's the deep radical challenge that Hester presents to this society.

Women's rights were a part of the cultural conversation. Strong women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were gathering other women to talk about science, politics and ideas. For the first time in America, women were challenging the firmly established male patriarchy. Hester Prynne can be seen as Hawthorne's literary contemplation of what happens when women break cultural bounds and gain personal power.

The Scarlet Letter as a Story of Crime and Punishment

Hester builds a small business doing embroidery-work. She raises her daughter, Pearl, by herself, fighting to keep her when the authorities try to take the child away. Over the years, Hester gains the respect of other women in Boston, becoming something of a quiet confidant for them.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Updike says the book still makes him cry. He describes a scene where Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest and implores him to run away with her. Updike wrote three novels of his own based on the characters of The Scarlet Letter; they're often called Updike's Hawthorne Trilogy.

Reading on The Scarlet Letter

The final one, titled simply S. Updike says Hester is "fun to write about, because she was so irrepresible. And I don't know, I suppose she's an epitome of female predicaments. At the end of her life, Hester Prynne chooses to live in Boston and to continue to wear that red letter "A" on her breast, long after she has fulfilled her punishment.

  1. Hester had been hoping that his new inner resources would give him the courage to escape with her, but he admonishes her from the scaffold that his strength must "be guided by the will which God hath granted" him p. He seeks only to damage and destroy.
  2. Originally, it gave him a task that is then made it all but impossible for him to fulfill.
  3. The only difference between them lies in the intensely personal nature of the concern Chillingworth presumably feels in the matter.
  4. Sympathy in Smith Hawthorne's position will be easier to appreciate if one first understands the rudiments of the position taken by Smith.

All the contradictions of Hester Prynne — guilt and honesty, sin and holiness, sex and chastity — make her an enduring heroine of American literature. She is flawed, complex, and above all fertile. The idea of Hester Prynne, the good woman gone bad, is a cultural meme that recurs again and again — perhaps because we as a culture are still trying to figure out who Hester really is and how we feel about her. In John Updike's words, "She is a mythic version of every woman's attempt to integrate her sexuality with societal demands.

Hester Prynne: Sinner, Victim, Object, Winner