| Strength and Compassion
Imagine yourself living in the Puritan days of the new settlers where you lived your daily life based off religious teachings. Now imagine you were put through the humiliating torture Hester Prynne went through in The Scarlet Letter. Adultery was a crime as well as a sin so scrutinized in the past, but now in present times, considered nothing more than a daily activity amongst many. Doesn't sound like a walk in the park now does it? Throughout the novel, Hester endures nonstop torment and ridicule, but being a woman with outstanding strength she still held her head high, taking everything this unforgiving society threw at her. The Puritan community Hester lived in would never let her live her sin down as long as she resided there considering adultery was the worst you can commit. Even though she was employed by this rejecting society and her handiwork was worn by almost everyone they still treated her according to her Scarlet Letter. Although her child is a byproduct of sin and a constant reminder of why she must wear the "A," Pearl is her everything and the love of her life. Despite the evil tendencies her child has, Hester, being of motherly nature, can't help but unconditionally love her little girl. Being put through what could be considered hell on earth; Hester always finds strength and compassion inside herself even during the darkest times of her life, particularly when it came to little Pearl and the Puritan community she lived in.
When Hester refused to tell the community who the father was, it showed how extraordinary her strength was considering she carried such a heavy burden alone. Only telling them, "God gave me this child! He gave her in requital of all things else which ye had taken from me," (63) This statement explains that Hester has lost several things near and dear to her. For example she had to leave her mother and father in England when she came to the colony. That must have been heart wrenching because family are the ones who are always there for you no matter how bad you screw up. I think she would have had an easier time dealing with this whole ordeal with the help of her mother and father, but then again being in a Puritan society they may have shunned her too. Being all alone it's understandable she found another human to share emotions or even a few good nights with. Hester believes since she has lost so much, this was God's gift to her for all the sadness she had endured. This little girl gave her a new outlook on life and eternal strength for years to come.
Her next statement was, "She is my happiness -- she is my torture, none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me, too!" (63) Hester knows her child was born out of her sin and is a burning reminder everyday that Pearl is the reason she bears the Scarlet Letter upon her chest. Although Pearl is her "torture," Hester views the situation as a mother because this little girl is all she has in the world and is the only thing that brings her happiness. The Puritan society Hester lives in continually shuns her for her act of adultery, but her child will only look at her as her mother who loves her unconditionally. Hester learned early that Pearl was going to grow up to be a handful. This was compounded by Hester's lack of discipline on the girl. The child acts impulsively and can be a pain to Hester, but since both are rejected from Puritan society, they fit well together. You can truly see a test of strength and love for her daughter when Pearl is threw wild flowers at Hester's Scarlet Letter. "Hester’s first motion had been to cover her bosom with her clasped hands. But whether from pride or resignation, or a feeling that her penance might best be wrought out by this unutterable pain, she resisted the impulse, and sat erect, pale as death, looking sadly into little Pearl’s wild eyes." (54) From this I conclude that even though Hester puts on a brave mask, she is tormented by little Pearl's actions. The only thing stopping her is knowing this was God's punishment for her sin.
Hester's final statement was, "See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a millionfold the power of retribution for my sin. Ye shall not take her! I will die first!" (63) In this statement, she is saying that no one truly understands the love she has for this child of sin. Bearing this child was truly a test of not only strength but also compassion for Hester, not only because she had to wear the "A," but because she had to wake up every day to raise an unruly child. "Hester, in proud defiance of her label, through her actions and the way she carries herself, transforms the letter to also represent her individuality and inner strength to overcome adversity; it becomes a part of who she is." (thecaverns.netfirms.com) Pearl and the "A" are one in the same. I understand that during this time period even if you were connected with someone who had sinned you were looked upon as a sinner as well. Little Pearl did nothing wrong so why blame her for a crime committed by her mother? Yes, Pearl was a hellion to say the least. Obviously these people were raised to believe the concept of judging a book by its cover. Pearl is only a child and I'm sure if any of those towns people were put into her shoes they would feel the same compassion for their child like Hester does for her.
From the very beginning as soon as Hester got out of jail she secluded herself away from everyone, where she lived on the outskirts of town. She gave them too much to gossip about and I'm sure it didn't help she made her "A" and her daughter's clothing stand out like a beautiful but sore thumb. Putting her talent to work Hester found work to support herself and her daughter. "By degrees, not very slowly, her handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion." (47) Although being a huge part in this town Hester felt, "Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere." (45) Hester never asked for forgiveness for her sin, she merely understood and accepted the consequences of her actions and in no way treated anyone differently. Although she was still an outcast, Hester functioned as a well known member of society. She didn't allow the negativity of these people to get her down; instead she embraced and made the best out of a dark situation.
Taunting, malicious stares, rampant gossip, and never ending torment surrounded Hester Prynne throughout the novel. Under no circumstances did she treat her tormentors with the same treatment they had bestowed upon her. Likewise, she never gave up her daughter like so many had wanted her to. Hester kept her faith to God even though she had committed one of the most heinous crimes one could during the time period. God gave her Pearl as not only a punishment along with her letter, but I feel as a lesson in life about strength and compassion. It takes a strong willed person to handle the situation Hester put herself in. She truly showed us that strength and compassion are predominate themes in Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Nathanial Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter Online Version #2 http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=772328
The Scarlet Letter Essay Compassion and Forgiveness http://thecaverns.netfirms.com/essays/scarletletter.htm