The same controversy exists today even though there isa decline in moral behavior. The main character, Hester Prynne, and her scarlet”A” have been a symbol of adultery for over one hundred years. It ishard to determine whether Hester is to be considered a predator or the preythroughout this novel. Individual upbringing and teachings could create apredetermined opinion of Hester and the sin of adultery. Hester’s beauty wasbreath-taking. Her dark hair and brown eyes were alluring.
An attractive figuredrew much attention from both male and female members of the community. Jealousycaused many women to reject her friendship. Men secretively desired her althoughthey may have pretended otherwise. Many prejudged Hester as being somewhat lessthan a symbol of virtue because of her outward appearance. She was never giventhe opportunity to develop a deep and personal friendship with anyone other thanthe priest. Her dependance on him drew her closer to him than she realized.
Hertenderness and passion was pushed deeper within as years passed. From the verybeginning she became a victim when her parents arranged her marriage to thewealthy yet notorious Roger Chillingsworth. He was a man who needed to collectthings and Hester became another possession. His great wealth enabled him tolead many different lives and become whomever or whatever he chose.
However, hisgreed and selfishness drove him to abandon Hester and destroy any love she mighthave had for him. Upon his return, during the platform scene, she pretended notto know him. At that moment her attraction to him still existed. The authorportrayed her as being smug and almost flaunting her sin, while at the same timeshe noticed how handsome her husband seemed. The promiscuity of Hester’scharacter not only instigated her affair but had also drawn her towards RogerChillingsworth to begin with. One could perceive this as a predaceous quality.
For seven long years, Hester and her bastard child Pearl suffered great anguish. Their existence in this Puritan setting was almost intolerable. Yet they wentabout their lives and took each bit of happiness, though few, and made the mostof it. It is the tendency of many to thrive on the failing and downfall ofothers; that is what transpired during this period. Possibly, her actions servedas a catalyst for exploitation, but how she was perceived by her fellow man wasnot a significant factor in her decision not to expose her lover. Cruelty canwear many disguises; ironically these Christian people were unforgiving andheartless.
Her bitterness was attributed partly to the loneliness and isolationshe suffered. Hester fell prey to gossip and became another victim of a societaljudgment. The true villain in all of this was the priest, Arthur Dimmesdale. Heallowed a woman , whom he supposedly loved, to be publicly ridiculed andhumiliated without coming forward and confessing his involvement. Hester alwayshad hope that her love would not be unrequited.
Her character was of strongnature and her love for the priest was excessive. One might consider her faithin a man as unworthy as Arthur Dimmesdale to be a major flaw in her character,but it also proves that passion can cast a shadow of sin on each of our souls. Love, at times, can blind one to the blemishes within another being. However, itwould appear that Hawthorne’s heroine entered the relationship with ArthurDimmesdale with eyes opened wide. Once again, Hester stood alone to face theconsequences of her infidelity and his deceit. Although throughout the plotHester dreamed of running away from it all and starting a new life with herlover and child, her plans went awry.
Her future with the priest was never tobe. But it proved to be enough for her that Arthur Dimmesdale finally faced thetownspeople who had placed him so high on his pedestal, and confessed his sin. Her unending pursuit of him, in spite of his vow of chastity and God’s law,eventually led to his untimely demise. Hester’s actions created a misinterpretedimage of her.
An obsessive love robbed her daughter of the freedom of childhoodand created the loss of an innocence that comes only with youth. Therefore, theanswer to the previous question of whether Hester was the predator or the preyis answered; she showed characteristics of both. Her actions proved time andagain that she fed off the stigma accompanying the scarlet letter but fellvictim to its effect. One’s perception of Hester’s personality and deeds mighthave changed throughout the novel.
Many might feel that under no circumstanceshould one disobey or disregard the commandments of our Lord. That might proveto many that Hester was an enemy of fidelity and commitment and displayedimmoral behavior. However, many could view her crime of passion as an incidentcaused from weakness of moral character, but find that each of us should showcompassion and forgiveness . Quite possibly her character needed an acceptancefrom her peers that could not be given due to the elements of that era.
In thisday and age, she would be considered a victim of circumstance but dismissed asbeing a reputable character. A tolerance of sin is a trait of today’s societyand again the reader must judge her either as predator or prey. Adultery is andalways will be a debatable subject. Decline in moral ethics of a society hasproven to be the leading cause of its self-destruction. Throughout time, it isevident that each great empire was more tolerant of sinful acts as itprogressed.
Progression can sometimes lead to regression just as it occurred inthis epic tale.