As citizens of the United States and members of the most open society
in the world it is difficult for us to picture a world where the phrases woman’s
rights, equal opportunity, and religious freedom have little meaning. When
the surface of American history is scratched, not necessarily deeply a past of
limited rights for women is soon revealed. The challenge to any author
comes in painting a picture of this colonial past to both current readers and
readers to come. Nathaniel Hawthorne In his book “ The Scarlet Letter”
successfully meets this task through the character of Hester Prynn. Hawthorne
describes a woman with independence ahead of her time and a social order
Hester’s independence was promptly demonstrated at the novel’s
beginning. The court has ruled as punishment for her adultery she must
wear an “A” upon her chest, that to the colonist served as a reminder of the
punishment they would suffer if their sins were to be discovered, and to
Hester a reminder of sin. Hester stands alone outside the court house as the
close minded colonial eyes stare at her and the baby in her arms. Many
women during this era of American history would look for a way to run.
Hester shows little sign of uneasiness, with exception to her firm hold on the
infant. At the conclusion of this scene the reader knows that this is a strong
woman trying to maintain dignity in a land were a woman’s independence
ranked right above blasphemy on the hierarchy of values.
Throughout the novel Hester demonstrates her independence of living.
Her husband never comes forward, and her lover does the same. With
everyone denying relations Hester is forced to live alone. She raises the child
by herself and is successful in her enterprise of sewing and hemming.
Hawthorne informs us that this lifestyle of isolationism is unique to her, and
convinces us that an average colonial woman could not survive under these
conditions. At this point in the book Hester has shown her independence in
dealing with life’s crisis, and in her style of living.
The best way to understand a parents personality is to examine how
they raise their children. This idea holds true when one examines closely the
techniques Hester uses to raise Pearl. In this era of religious totality,
independence of thought, and the teachings of those ideals commanded little
respect. Doing something taboo for the times, Hester refuses to adopt puritan
customs into Pearls upbringing. Most families of our colonial past raised
children with a strict biblical stick. Refusing to adapt these brutish policies
Hester allows Pearl to maintain a spirit of revolutionary independence.
Hawthorne leads us to believe that these traits stim from both Hester’s nature,
At the conclusion of the novel Hawthorne leaves much to be pondered.
Although, one thing is clearly shown, Hesters has reforming independence.
Although the novel used little imagery a reader is still left to contemplate the
true magnitude of this Woman’s independence. The specific effects of her
personality can always be argued, but a modern reader will never question
Hesters ability to achieve success in today’s social structure.