"You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jelly beans," said Ronald Regan. Okay, so Hester Prynne does not eat jellybeans in The Scarlet Letter, but her character is a dominating force throughout the novel. Hester Prynne, a compassionate maternal figure in The Scarlet Letter, portrays dauntless determination by conquering enormous emotional strife throughout the course of her life. Hester becomes a heroine in her perseverance, her independence from her community, and her acceptance of and optimism towards her mistakes. "One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but cannot be taken away unless it is surrendered," said Michael J. Fox.
Hester was not willing to relinquish her pride and life after being publicly ridiculed and scorned on the scaffold for the crime of adultery. Prynne could have left her town and her past mistakes and tainted reputation, but she decided to stay and lived in a hut by herself just outside the town. She most likely decided to stay because she feels bound to Pearl's Dimmesdale. In addition, Hester knew if she left she would acknowledge the society's power over her life. She did not need to flee or live a life of lies in order to resist the judgment against her. Also, regardless of what the community thought of her, Prynne still strived to be a caring citizen.
She knitted woolens and wove linens for the townspeople, cared for the poor and brought them food and clothing. She even became a protagonist, feminist mother figure to the women of the community. In addition to Hester's pertinacity, she can also be characterized as self-supporting. Although Hester remained in the area of her town, she still isolated herself from the community by not accepting help from others.
Being away from all the others allowed her to raise her daughter, Pearl, alone. Raising Pearl as a single parent was not an easy task for Hester. Pearl constantly reminded Hester of her sin. Plus Pearl was a devilish, impish, terribly behaved child that was indifferent to the strict Puritan society.
Regardless of Pearl's poor behavior, Hester was still able to single-handedly mold her into a civilized person. The scarlet letter was meant to be a symbol of shame, but the letter's meaning shifts as time passes. Originally meant to stand for adulterer, the "A" eventually comes to stand for "Able." This meaning shift is due to Hester's optimism and acceptance of the affair that resulted in her pregnancy. One example of Hester's optimism toward her mistake is how she fancily embroidered her letter on "a crimson velvet tunic of a peculiar cut, abundantly embroidered with fantasies and flourishes of gold thread." Another two examples of how she accepted her mistake would be the facts she did not leave town after being punished and she raised Pearl on her own. A final example of her acceptance and optimism occurred when legal officials told her she could take off her letter but she decided to continue to wear the "A" because she reckoned it represented her as a person best because a person's past make them the person they are.
Hester Prynne's perseverance, her independent nature, and acceptance and sanguinity of her mistakes made her an idol. As John Quincy Adams once said "Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.".