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Hester Prynne: Critical Analysis of a Character

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The main character of the novel, around which everything revolves, is Hester Prynne, a young and beautiful woman, of solid moral principles, educated, untamed and a lover of freedom, at a time when the human intellect began to emancipate (cap 13), because we are in full scientific revolution, as a consequence, above all, of the findings in the field of astronomy of the Italian Galileo Galilei († 1642) and the German Johannes Kepler († 1630), who drove decisively the establishment of the new scientific method, clearly delimiting the plots of faith and science, which, as Galileo repeatedly argued after 1610, does not have to enter into contradiction, as long as they remain in their respective fields, without invading each other.

Galileo, who was a convinced believer and Catholic, sincerely intended, besides, to preserve the Church itself, preventing it from falling into ridicule in front of the Protestants. If the truths of science, discovered through observation and the experimental method, cannot be altered, for that would be to contravene the laws and the obvious phenomena of nature, what theologians must do is reinterpret Sacred Scripture, to accommodate it to such truths, which in no case means subordination of faith to science, but strict delimitation of their respective fields of action [19]. It is not necessary to insist that the other two fundamental figures in the changes that are taking place in the mathematical sciences and the emancipation of the human intellect concerning prejudices, ignorance, and fanaticism, are the French thinkers Renato Descartes († 1650) and Blas Pascal († 1662), although the latter will do well to warn of the danger of man’s reverberation, that he would make a very serious mistake, as will, happen later, in believing himself a god and not being aware of his limitations.

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As for the untamed character and love for the freedom of Hester Prynne, the reader immediately evokes the unconventional and passionate Catherine Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights, the immortal novel by Emily Brontë, published in December 1847, only a year and a half before the beginning of the writing of The Scarlet Letter. Although the circumstances are completely different in both novels, and although Catherine marries the young Edgar Linton, who knows whether due to the stunning youth or dazzled by the refinement of the host family, although her heart belongs entirely intimately to Heathcliff, the narrator of Hawthorne’s novel makes an interesting observation concerning Hester: “It is curious that people who dare to let their imagination speculate freely are often those who conform more comfortably to the external regulations of society ”(chap. 13). The reason for this is, at least in Hester’s case, both in the activity of thought and in the fact that his soul is completely free. Another very powerful reason is the compensation he finds in his full dedication to the care and education of his daughter, little Pearl. It will be this set of reasons, mainly, that leads her to accept the humiliating punishment imposed by the community in which she lives.

What has been your sin? According to the great logic of the first half of the twelfth century in the Christian West, Pedro Abelardo, ‘the characteristic of sin is its consent to evil.’ For Abelardo, ‘the cause of transgression’ is ‘a simple movement of abandonment’ [20]. But, as we shall see at once, in the action of Hester Prynne neither can one speak properly of evil nor of ‘abandonment,’ that is, nonchalance or lazy unconsciousness; In any case, and we cannot be sure, of thoughtless impulse. His sin, if it can be called that, is the only slip he has committed in his life: to maintain a fleeting relationship with Protestant pastor Arthur Dimmesdale, the result of which will be his pregnancy and the birth of Pearl. The judges, who could very well have sentenced her to death if it had been a normal adultery, that is, in the case of having extramarital affairs deceiving the husband, force her to permanently carry a large letter A of adulteress on her chest, a letter that she will embroider exquisitely, because it was an excellent embroidery machine, with gold thread, on a red background. Notwithstanding the precision of Pedro Abelardo’s concept of sin that I have found pertinent to do, Hester Prynne will indeed be aware of having sinned, although this feeling of guilt will be greater in Arthur, a truly tormented character. The education received and the oppressive religious environment in which they live undoubtedly predispose them to have that conscience.

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Hester Prynne: Critical Analysis of a Character. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/hester-prynne-critical-analysis-of-a-character/
“Hester Prynne: Critical Analysis of a Character.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/hester-prynne-critical-analysis-of-a-character/
Hester Prynne: Critical Analysis of a Character. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/hester-prynne-critical-analysis-of-a-character/> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].
Hester Prynne: Critical Analysis of a Character [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/hester-prynne-critical-analysis-of-a-character/
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