Character Development of a Woman in Exile, Hester Prynne

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Exile. A consequence that scars a person. The reasons for being exiled varies, but it not only causes them to be alienated, it can end up enriching their personality or their work ethic. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the main character, Hester Prynne was exiled from the city of Boston due to her adulterous actions, but redeemed herself through her service to the community through sewing.

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In the beginning of the novel, Hester Prynne was forced to to sew a prominent red “A”, which was a degrading symbol near her breast. This comes after she gave birth the a baby girl named Pearl, which was not her husband’s child, while she was in jail. Hester never stated who the father of her baby was, in order to protect Pearl’s father’s identity. She was publicly humiliated, and the women in the crowds were belittling her by calling her derogatory names, but this was ironic because these women were not physically attractive as well. Through this experience, Hester was forced into solidarity with her daughter, and had to live out near the forest, which was known as where the devil resided.

This illuminates to the novel’s name The Scarlet Letter because the letter, along with Hester’s actions, was the reason that she was cast out of society and viewed as a woman that was not faithful to her husband. Hester had no one to interact with due to the people of the town avoiding her like the plague, except for her daughter who was still young, which indicates that the isolation may have taken a toll on her mental health. Throughout her being isolated, Hester had more free time on her hands and was able to start using her talents of sewing to assist the people who live in the city.

As the novel progresses further, Hester is seen earning a reputation of being a hard worker through her sewing. She had a very fine talent through her sewing intricate designs or clothing for the people of the town. However, she was forbidden from sewing a white bridal veil, due to Pearl being a constant reminder that she had cheated on her husband. As Hester began to do work, the constant belittling stopped and she slowly became accepted back into the town.

This was enriching for Hester because she was an outcast of society, and she now had a place, where she could use her talent to integrate back into society. Although she carries the “A” on her chest, through her exile she was able to enrich her sewing abilities and her relationships with the people in society. Through her exile, Hester realized that the “A” did not have to hinder her from being an active part of the town, instead it became her motivation to become a person that contributed to society. Exile does not have to be permanent in order to change a person. Through the development of the character of Hester Prynne, the exile was beneficial because it gave her the strength to become a hard working person, who helped the town she lived in. It was able to enrich her personality and the works that she did for others, which ultimately influence her child as well.

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