Hester, the main character of The Scarlet Letter, remains to be the strong individual despite laws and norms of society which disapprove different thinking such as individualism. The idea of the individual vs. society is the major concern of the work by Nathaniel Hawthorne with symbolic title of The Scarlet Letter. There are two different people who disobeyed the law of the society. However, their actions are not so bad after all. Their own attitude to their actions makes it look like a serious violation. The way Arthur deals with the conflict differs what Hester actually does. Actually, it is Arthur’s inactivity which leads to negative consequences some time later. Hester, on the other hand, admits violating the law of her society right away. She sincerely regrets for her wrongdoings. Moreover, it seems like Arthur wants to help Hester by offering her to tell their story:
Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life. (Hawthorn, p.102)
Actually, he thinks that such an act will lessen her guilt and thus her burden. Therefore, these two people differently deal with the effects their actions had on them and people surrounding them.
However, it should be noted that the pressure is coming not only from social laws, but also from an individual’s inner feeling and understanding of his or her own guilt. Hester is more in harmony with herself, but is rather in conflict with society. It does not only concern her position towards adultery, but other aspects of life in general. Based on the act of scaffolding, Hester was humiliated. Puritan community was treating such people very strictly because they could not be forgiven for deeds like that. So, she agreed not to leave the Puritans; moreover, she agreed to wear the scarlet Letter which was like a punishment for her breaking the religious law. At the same time, even though life between Arthur and her was not possible any longer, she refused to leave him.
During the following years, Hester seemed to obey the law and the customs of Puritans; however, her individual was never broken by anything. Even though her daughter was born beyond the law, Hester was always proud of her. Moreover, carrying the Scarlet Letter was supposed to be a sign of her sin and shame. Instead of this, she interwoven a golden thread into it and was carrying it with some pride. It symbolizes Hester’s inner strength as an individual. She has to abide to the laws instilled in society, but as an individual and as a woman she does not imagine her life without Arthur and their daughter. Furthermore, when they meet in the forest, she shows her real strong personality. She is ready to continue the silent struggle with the norms of society she totally disagrees with. Her plan of an escape seems to be the only way out for each of them.
When Hester came back home after a long stay in the other country, she resumed carrying her Scarlet Letter. However, personally for this woman it was not a sign of shame. It was a sign of becoming more powerful after combating some big problems because The Scarlet Letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too (Hawthorn, p.392). Hester learned a harsh life lesson, made conclusions and became even stronger individual than she was before.
Because Arthur is not as strong as Hester, he disagrees with her proposition. When the man died, Hester decided to return to England with their daughter. When her beloved is not alive any more, the woman seems to be no longer tied to that community. Her decision is to leave for England. She returns only before her death to be buried right next to her beloved man, Arthur.
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