Creative Agency in The Scarlet Letter

  • Tia Byer


This article provides a critical analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s employment of artistic defiance in The Scarlet Letter. In reading Hester Prynne’s artistic ability and theological dissent as tools of creative resistance, the article claims that Hawthorne uses self-expression to critique Puritan values. When Hester redesigns the symbol of the scarlet letter A that she is forced to wear as a punishment for the sin of committing adultery, the act of sewing becomes a transgressive form of resistance. By examining the way in which she transforms her symbol of shame into an expression of autonomy, I trace the spiritual significance of Hester’s resistance and Hawthorne’s statement of individualism as reflecting the Transcendentalist rhetoric of early nineteenth-century New England. Hester’s ability to transcend institutional authority to create an independent identity, in turn, cultivates an independent relationship with God. Finally, I read Hawthorne’s own parallel creative struggle as author as a metaphor for national independent identity that can be contextualised within the American Renaissance.

Black Lives Matter Protest. Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash
How to Cite
Byer, Tia. 2020. “Creative Agency in The Scarlet Letter”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts, no. 30 (July).