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Moral Leadership: The Scarlet Letter

The main character, Hester Prynne, in the novel The Scarlet Letter, puts forth a great example of a non-judgmental person. As someone who has her sins permanently pinned on her body, she acts in a way that is different to those who are self-righteous. Three major points stand out in The Scarlet Letter. The first is how the people treat Hester; the second is how she reacts to their treatment; and the third is how she reacts to those who have sinned against her.

Hester’s stigma

The way the public treat Hester after hearing of her adulterous affair is quite notable. This treatment is reflective of a curious trait in human beings where they are quick to accuse as if they themselves are sinless. The town’s people berate Hester and even make her carry a Scarlet ‘A’ on her clothes so that the stigma never leaves her. The fact that Hester is unable to hide her sin (because of her pregnancy) does not negate from the fact that her accusers are not perfect themselves—although they would have everyone believe that they are. This brings to mind the words of Jesus when He said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Detaching from society’s opinions

Despite being treated cruelly by the town, Hester makes a point of serving the people with kindness. She is also unaffected by the way people perceive her and carries her stigma around without resistance. One cannot help but see that she is a perceptive woman. Her refusal to name the father of her child shows that she is willing to bear her own sin, but not resentful so as to make others share in her shame.

The difference between Hester Prynne and Roger Chillingworth

There is a striking contrast between Hester and Roger in the book. When Roger (Hester’s husband) finds out who the father of Hester’s child is, he makes a point of torturing his conscience and enjoys doing so. Unlike Hester who does not hold men’s sins against them, Roger is a vengeful man who ends up losing everything because of his vindictiveness.

Although the character of Hester Prynne can be perceived as weak, she is actually the strongest person in the story. She is willing to bear the brunt of what she has done, but is quick to forgive those who have sinned against her. She is also not interested in making their sins known so as to alleviate her own shame. In addition, her kindness towards her accusers is remarkable. Hester Prynne is a good example of moral leadership.

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