The character development in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is superb. The protagonist, Hester Prynne, develops over the course of the book from someone who rebels against society’s standards to a woman who accepts herself and life with open arms. The antagonist, Chillingworth, also develops from someone who seeks revenge on all sinners to a man who only wishes to bring the one that hurt him most back into his clutches. The book also features a weak female character in Dimmesdale who discovers inner strength.
The transformation of these characters is what makes The Scarlet Letter such a great novel. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes about Hester Prynne, an adulteress in Boston in the 17th century (the novel actually has nothing to do with the letter “A” and her adultery, but more on that later). She is forced by society to wear a scarlet letter A for the rest of her life as punishment for committing adultery. Hester isn’t always this way; we see her change from someone rebelling against societal norms (by having an affair) to someone who accepts herself and life with open arms.
The letter A on her chest serves as a constant reminder of what she has done wrong, so she decides to work hard to be a good person again. At the beginning of the novel, Hester is timid, quiet, and reserved. Slowly through the book she starts opening up more and shows that just because she made one mistake doesn’t mean that she will make another one. She believes that everyone should love her for who she is, not because of something they forced upon her. Hester also learns how to have faith in God even though He took away everything from her including her child Pearl .
The novel’s theme states “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward. ” (Job 5:7), and this is exactly what happens to Hester. The development of Hester shows the reader that it’s okay to make mistakes, but we must remember that God has a plan for us and we should be patient while waiting for His blessings. The character Nathaniel Hawthorne uses in Hester Prynne symbolizes many different concepts and ideas within The Scarlet Letter . The scarlet letter “A” itself serves as a metaphor for her adultery, but also for people who are constantly reminded of their sins.
When she speaks to Dimmesdale at the scaffold, he asks to see her scarlet letter, indicating that he knows she wears it even though he never asked her about it. The novel does not actually have anything to do with the letter “A” or adultery, but that does not take away from the story at all. The characters of The Scarlet Letter are always growing and learning which allows readers to relate to them more. The protagonist of The Scarlet Letter , Hester Prynne, is an example of one of these characters – she goes through a major transformation throughout the novel.
At the beginning of The Scarlet Letter , Hester’s character is timid and quiet; however, by the end she has become stronger and more independent because she realizes that everyone will make mistakes in life; therefore, she shouldn’t feel ashamed about herself (Hawthorne). Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many different themes such as sin and to develop his characters in The Scarlet Letter . The novel’s theme, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards,” can be found in Job 5:7. This quote from the Bible shows that those who sin will face hardships.
The characters themselves change throughout The Scarlet Letter , and this allows readers to relate to them more. The character Hester develops from someone who rebels against society’s standards to a woman who accepts herself and life with open arms by seeing her as a representation of sin and how it should not always define a person or their actions (Encyclopedia). The development of these characters is what makes The Scarlet Letter such a great novel because it contains many different themes including sinful nature and redemption, which can be applied to everyone’s lives.
Hester begins The Scarlet Letter timid and very quiet; however, by the end she is strong and independent. The character development throughout The Scarlet Letter allows readers to relate more to them simply because everyone makes mistakes in life. The protagonist Hester represents sin, but at the same time she shows people how they should not be constantly reminded of their past wrongdoings. The theme of The Scarlet Letter tells readers that sometimes we have to face hardships because of our sins so it’s important to be patient while waiting for God’s blessings.
The beginning of The Scarlet Letter shows a woman who is vibrant and full of life. By the end of The Scarlet Letter, Hester has become very humble and full of shame for having an affair with another man. The people’s opinions influenced her to feel this way. In contrast, Chillingworth begins changing dramatically from the beginning to the end as well. The beginning of The Scarlet Letter we see a character that views everything in black and white. He only cares about what he can gain by it regardless whom he must hurt to get it.
We also see how Dimmesdale changes from the beginning to the end as well and much like Chillingworth he also becomes much less moral than before and now takes pride in his secret sins instead of feeling horrible for the suffering and pain he has caused. The development of these three characters shows how people can change in a way that is not always for the better. The story opens up with Hester Prynne being forced to stand on a platform while holding a sign showing her crime of adultery.
The townspeople are giving her evil looks because they view her as an immoral woman, even though she has done nothing wrong. The only person who does not seem to look at Hester this way is Reverend Dimmesdale who silently pleads to God to forgive her for what she has done. The Scarlet Letter starts out with the main character Hester full of life and very confident about herself and how she carries herself in society. She seems to be the only one who feels that having an affair should not cause her to be treated like a criminal.
The story continues with Hester getting into trouble again by spending time talking with Dimmesdale because fornication is against The Scarlet Letter’s society’s morality. The townspeople view this conversation as an act of adultery so they become frustrated at Hester and force her to leave The Scarlet Letter. The Warden forces Chillingworth, his best friend, to go look for Hester so he does not have to forge the pillory sentence himself. The Warden views what the townspeople are doing as sick even though he could get in trouble if he did not do it himself.
Once Chilling finds Hester she explains why she had to leave The Scarlet Letter and he vows revenge on Dimmesdale for making him lose his good, innocent friend. The way the Warden views Hester is very different from how the rest of The Scarlet Letter society views her. The Warden even tells Hester that Dimmesdale was in fact in love with her not because he viewed her as an immoral person like everyone else did but simply because she was beautiful (Hawthorne 10).
The story continues with Chillingworth getting very sick which makes the townspeople think that maybe what they are doing is not right after all. They believe that this illness has come upon him because he went looking for Hester Prynne. The story moves ahead several years into The Scarlet Letter’s future when The Scarlet Letter society finds out that Dimmesdale has been in love with Hester since The Scarlet Letter’s beginning. The townspeople are very unhappy because The Scarlet Letter is suppose to be a community of people who are committed to God not each other.
The Warden decides to make Chillingworth the governor of The Scarlet Letter so he can have more power over what happens which causes Dimmesdale to feel jealous and very nervous about his future. The story moves ahead again when it is evident that Chillingworth is in fact in control of Dimmesdale through blackmail by having evidence that Dimmesdale had sex with Hester Prynne even though they both swore they would never tell anyone about their affair.