According to author Karen Todd, "Your true character is revealed by the clarity of your convictions, the choices you make, and the promises you keep. Hold strongly to your principles and refuse to follow currents of convenience. What you do defines who you are, and who you are...you are forever." All of us encounter adversity at some point in our lives. Whether it is the death of a loved one, disagreements with friends or paying the price for bad decisions. How we deal with tribulations helps build our character. In the book The Scarlet Letter, the main character Hester Prynne’s sin forces her to be strong, independent and brave. Hester is an adulteress whose actions have lead her to become a symbol for sin in the Puritan community that she lives in. In 17th Century Puritan Boston, there were not many sins that would rival adultery. Hester Prynne’s sin of adultery made her a complete outcast. Her punishment included jail and public shaming. The public shaming included Hester wearing a scarlet letter "A" on her chest. The "A" stood for adultery and the entire community would know of her sin. Because of this sin, Hester had a difficult decision to make: either to leave Boston and run away from her mistake or remain and look adversity straight in the eye. Hester chose to stay.
Everyone has either already read The Scarlet Letter or is bound to read it at some point in their high school careers. One may ask, "Why are we reading a book whose setting is in the late 1840's? What does this book have to do with modern times?" The Scarlet Letter is completely relevant to modern times. The book is over 160 years old but yet it still sends a powerful message to readers today. The book shows the after effects of sinning. People now-a-days have to face their sins and mistakes, just as Hester had to. Everything you do is judged by others. People will judge you on how you dress, whether or not you're successful, and if you're considered 'popular'. Many people become jealous and obsessed and will try to do everything in their power to take someone down.
In my opinion, Hester’s decision to stay exemplifies courage, strength and independence. Hester’s sin caused her hardship. How she handled that hardship inspired strength and a newfound self-respect. Hester had to stay in the wilderness for seven years. In those seven years, Hester learned to be strong, independent, courageous, and how to be a free thinker. She did not rely on others and had to fend for herself. All the women in Hester's town are tied to a man, whether it is a father or a husband or a brother, who makes decisions for them, and supports them financially. Hester has no ties to a male figure, and can therefore make all her own decisions.
Hester is still stuck in the "separate sphere" because even though she doesn't have a husband, she still needs to take care of her house and child. Obviously, she does not do a very good job of keeping religion alive at home, but she does her best at becoming a role model for her daughter, Pearl. Hester breaks all the stereotypes of women. Hester defies the stereotype of the wife/mother. She is not virginal or pure, she does not take care of her husband, and she does not stay in her place.
I find it ironic that Dimmesdale's secrecy was not reviled to the community during the corse of the novel. The affair was just as much Dimmesdale's fault as it is Hester's fault, yet Hester takes all of the blame for their shared sin. If the town knew that Dimmesdale was the father of Pearl, the community would have turned into chaos. Dimmesdale is supposed to be the town minister, who preaches these sermons, yet it is all one big lie. He does not live by the word of his sermons. He is a phony for not admitting he is the father and he is putting Hester in a terrible situation by not speaking up.
The Scarlet Letter both reflects and criticizes the patriarchal structure of society. A patriarchal society is where men are the decision-makers and hold positions of power. Hester takes control of her life and in her adulteress situation, but fails to let the truth prevail to the community because of the two men in her life. She may be an independent woman, but she still is overpowered by men. Hester Prynne is objectified in this novel. At the beginning of the novel, she is turned into a walking symbol of sin. But by the end of the novel, she is a role model for women. Hester did have agency in this novel. Even though she was forced to go to jail, after she came out she had the ability to make her own actions and decisions. No one else had power over her actions. This work is without a doubt a feminist work. Hester rejected the role of femininity twice throughout the novel. She committed original sin and she completely twisted the punishment of her actions. She turned the scarlet "A" from a weakness to a strength, which is not what the community wanted. Hester's bold disobedience suggests that women should have equal rights.
The Scarlet Letter is without a doubt a feminist work. The three main characters work off of one another. Hester is strong and Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are weak and corrupt. Hester clearly overcomes her sin and moves on with her life, while Dimmesdale can't even admit his sins and Chillingworth is trying to seek revenge on Dimmesdale. Hester has enough strength to over come what needs to be ended, while the men are still so tied up in the past.