Hester's Ambivalence in the Scarlet Letter

Hester's Ambivalence in the Scarlet Letter

  • Submitted By: ashraf1991
  • Date Submitted: 05/08/2013 6:26 AM
  • Category: English
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Hester's Ambivalence in The Scarlet Letter

Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter, Hester's

attitudes toward her adultery are ambivalent. This ambivalence is shown by

breaking the book into three different parts. In each part her attitudes

change significantly.

Hester starts by seeing her act as a sin that she is sorry for

committing. She changes and no longer feels sorry for the sin. Finally,

Hester sees the act as not sinful, but she regrets committing it.

In the first part, covering the first six chapters, Hester thinks

of her action as a sin. In chapter four she tells her husband that it was

her fault for committing adultery when she says, "I have greatly wronged

thee" (79). In chapter six Hawthorne writes that Hester knows "her deed

had been evil" (92). This evil deed, in Hester's eyes, causes Pearl to act

sinful, so Hester feels overwhelming guilt. At this point Hester feels

that her actions were evil and were her fault, therefore she is sorry for

committing adultery.

In chapter five Hester's attitudes are the same but Hawthorne shows

that these attitudes are not stable and are susceptible to change. Hester

moves to a cottage on the outskirts of Boston, but because her sentence

does not restrict her to the limits of the Puritan settlement, Hester could

return to Europe to start over. She decides to stay because she makes

herself believe that the town "has been the scene of her guilt, and here

should be the scene of her earthly punishment" (84). This belief gives the

impression that she views her action as a sin and feels a need to further

punish herself. But this belief only covers her actual feelings. To the

contrary, as Hawthorne describes, her real reason for staying is that

"There dwelt, there trod the feet of one with whom she deemed...

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