American University

the question of identity in the scarlet letter

does hester prynne build her own identity by herself or does she be influenced by the society

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Yes, Hester builds her own identity by herself, but she also allows herself to be influenced by society. Not however, in the way most of us think! Hester is forced to wear the scarlet letter that publicly proclaims her sin, but she doesn't leave the colony; why? She's not under arrest; she doesn't have to stay there; she can move onto a new town in a new place and start over. So why does she stay?

Even stranger is the panic she feels when Chillingworth informs her that there's talk amongst the town leaders about allowing her to remove the letter from her clothing. What is she thinking? Well, my interpretation is that she's not going to let anyone else determine who she is anymore. She wants to be in control of her own identity rather than any one person or group of people telling her how she should be perceived or by what forces she should be judged. To run away gives the society she lives in power over her life, and would be perceived as fleeing shame. Instead, Hester stays in the colony, and she transforms the meaning of the scarlet letter by defining it in her own way and not allowing it to define her. She has dealt with her past and has no desire to hide from it; it has made her who she is.


The Scarlet Letter