The Scarlet Letter

More Than Meets The Eye

"Don't judge a book by its cover." Everyone knows this hackneyed quote, but people still judge others based on outer appearance. By doing so, these people ignore the possible inner greatness of those they so quickly set aside. The character Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter is a victim of such judgment and proves the quote to be valid advice. Hester's actions and mien substantiate the theme of appearance versus reality throughout the novel.

In the beginning of the book, though Hester may give the appearance of being a boastful rebel, she is actually quite distressed about her miserable circumstances. For example, when Hester steps onto the scaffold and the crowd sees her beautifully stitched and gold embroidered letter, one of the Puritan women comments, "She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain... but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it! Why, gossips, what is it but to laugh in the faces of our godly magistrates..." (45). By accentuating the letter with beautiful decoration, Hester reinforces the facade that she is proud of her crime. A woman with much shame will not take time from the contemplation of her...

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