Nathaniel Hawthorne expresses Hester Prune's self-perception by using the concept of physiognomy, the notion that the outer appearance of a person reflects his or her Inner qualities. One of the common methods through which people display their beliefs and emotions is the manner In which they present themselves to society. Hester displays her beliefs about her own character through her choice of clothing. Hawthorne also uses clothing In order to depict Hester Implementation of self enmeshment, which is a result of her negative self-perception.
She alms to express that her appearance has become so unattractive as a result of her sin. In other words, her the unbecoming state of her heart which has become Impure Is reflected In her clothing made of "the coarsest materials" with colors of "the most somber hue. " The most eye-catching article of her outfit, the scarlet letter, also greatly contributes to the physical display of her sin. Purposely reminding the people and herself about that which she is guilty of is how Hester punishes herself mutinously.
Her self punishment involved not only wearing "plain" clothing, but also practicing asceticism in order to prevent her from experiencing any form of enjoyment. When Hester "devoted[sees] so many hours" to sewing "coarse garments" she is limiting herself from reaching her true potential of artistic talent. The coarse garments are symbolic of the bland dull distractions she turns to in order to restrict herself from working on that which she is truly passionate about, in other words, to refrain from creating beautiful and arabesque articles of clothing.
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Initially one would find Hester adornment of Pearl ironic in regards to her decision to live simply without any form of enjoyment. However, after closer inspection, it can be inferred from the diction within the text that this might be another form of self punishment. Hester makes beautiful clothing for her daughter Pearl to wear, however this is not for the sake of her passion to create elaborately designed needle-work. The fact that Hawthorne chose to introduce Pearl's attire in this specific paragraph nits that there is a relation between Hester self punishment and the reason behind why she adorns her daughter.
The implied "deeper meaning" refers to the same reason why Hester wears plain clothing. Pearl's beautiful clothing makes her stand out when seen in the community, and the color and fancy design of the cloth reminds both Hester and the people of the scarlet letter. Thus, Hester uses Pearl's attire as a way to punish herself; the clothing will never allow her nor society to forget what she did. Even today, clothing Is one of the mall WAP through which people express themselves.
It Is also a way through which they reward themselves. The opposite of this case Is seen in chapter 5 of The Scarlet Letter; Hawthorne uses clothing to depict how Hester displays negative self-perception. She believes that she must atone for elaborate embroidery. She also uses clothing as a form of self punishment when she dresses her daughter, as it will serve as a constant reminder of her scarlet letter and of the fact that she is forever labeled as an adulteress.
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