The Scarlet Letter

A Model for Hester Pryne 11th Grade

The Scarlet Letter, a key entry in the American canon, examines the concept of adultery in Puritan society, using the protagonist, Hester Prynne, to model the presence of sin and wrongdoing in an otherwise pure community. Such an important examination of human nature and behavior has thus led many readers to question the source of the author’s formulation of such a character. Who is Hester Prynne? Why does Hawthorne spend so much of the text condoning her actions? Furthermore, the idea that the Scarlet Letter may have taken root in his family and friends poses an interesting question to the critical reader. It is important to consider what influenced Hawthorne to write such a scandalous character in reference to those surrounding him, thus posing the question; How does the presence of Hawthorne’ mother and feminist Margaret Fuller impact his opinion of Hester, a single mother, in the Scarlet Letter?

When examining the components of the medley that is Hester Prynne, an important contributor to consider is Hawthorne’s mother, Elizabeth Clark Manning. Due to the death of Hawthorne’s father at an early age, Manning became “herself a single parent” (Wineapple), much like her son’s notorious Hester Prynne. As a result, it is likely...

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