Depiction of Characters in the Scarlett Letter and The Great Gatsby

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The technical definition of a hero is a person of “distinguished courage or ability, admired for [their] brave deeds and noble qualities”( When thinking of a hero in a book, one might think of a strong and brave man who fights in battle to save someone. A Hero does not have to be someone who goes through each step to become a hero. Hester Prynne and Nick Carraway both possess traits and commit actions that make them heros in some way or another. Through the two books, The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald we are able to see what a hero can be in a non-traditional sense.

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Through her struggles, over the course of the Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne, the main character, establishes her self as a hero, through the struggles that she is given in life. Even if Hester may have broken the Puritan laws of her community, she still shows a tremendous amount of confidence and that she will get through whatever life throws at her. After some time, Hester knows who is in the world and she knows what she deserves. She is not worried about calling anyone out if they have wronged her. After a stretch time, Hester finally realizes that she is not the only one at fault. She finally realizes that she can be blaming Roger Chillingsworth for the crime as well. “Be it sin or no,” said Hester Prynne bitterly, as she still gazed after him, ‘I hate the man!’…’Yes, I hate him!’ repeated Hester, more bitterly than before. ‘He betrayed me! He has done me worse wrong than I did him!’” (153-54) Hester has finally taken in that she cannot possibly take one hundred percent of the blame for having a child. Hester recognizes that her husband, Chillingsworth, does not have the right to say that she betrayed him. He abandoned Hester in a new world; she had no way of knowing if he was even alive. Hester takes that he tries to blame for and put her in a worse position in the community. Chillingsworth does not want anyone to think that he is a bad person and is perfectly okay with making Hester take all the blame in this situation. Hester shows that she is a confident young woman. She needed to be in a bad situation to realize how much worth she had and how she should be treated in this world. Through her poor community life, she takes the time of solitary that she has as a way to further grow herself into a better and more defined woman. Hester also shows that even though she is stuck in a bad place in the community she does no want to give up the father of her babies’ name. Even when she is forced to “speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer”(77), Hester will not give it up. She knows what it is like to have the community against oneself and does not want anyone to have to go through that too, especially, because Arthur Dimmesdale is so highly though of in the community. She would take all the blame for the crime to save him from the expulsion from the community. Hester shows that she is willing to help the people that she loves, showing the loyalty she has.

Nick Carraway is the narrator to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, he might not be a traditional hero but he might just be the most heroic person throughout the novel. Nick may not be a traditional ‘hero’ but he is a hero in some aspects of the story. Nick is a very honest man. He is not afraid of what to say what he thinks, he even describes himself as “one of the few honest people I have ever known”(170). While Nick is nice, that does not stop him from judging just about everyone in the novel. Being honest is an extremely good quality, maybe not as much if all a person does with being honest is talk about what others are doing wrong. Nick may be honest with the rest of the world but how honest is he truly being with himself? He thinks very highly of himself and always has to give himself a pat on the back. When Nick is honest he makes it clear what he thinks, he tells Tom, when talking about other people compared to them that “They’re a rotten crowd,”…”You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together”(44). Nick is talking about how just because some people are born with money does not automatically give them a status or class definition. He thinks that there is more to being a high-class person just because you have money. He is also outright tells Tom about how he does not like him in this quote. He says that as much as he does not like the whole crowd of wealthy people, that Tom is the equivalent of all of them together. While Nick is not genuinely what you would classify a hero as, the reader will realize that he has some important qualities that a hero needs. He may not present them in a way that is ‘hero-like’ but he does have those potentials of becoming a true hero.

When reading both The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby, it brings up some questions about society and how society runs. Reading The Scarlett Letter, makes the reader question how society works and why it set up the way it is. It makes the audience question how much our society and culture has changed since Puritan times. If the same situation were put into a current day setting, we might have the same outcome, just not as extreme. In present day, a person who had a baby out of wedlock would be far more excepted today then two-hundred years ago. The reaction would be split, a person might get some negative feedback from some people but then others would be there to support the young mother. Even if this book was written in the past, it still connects to our society now. In current day, people might seem more open and caring about a situation like this but even those people who say that they are okay with such a situation might just go and gossip about it to some of their friends. This shows how society has changed but the human-race has not. Humans are still prone to judge. Just like in The Great Gatsby, Nick could be considered the hero of the novel because he is the most human. People are always going to judge and make assumptions, weather it is out loud or just thinking them. Reading these books really does make the readers question why it is that we act this ways. The books bring these issues to the front of our minds and make us think about how society work and why it never really changes.

In The Scarlett Letter and The Great Gatsby we are introduced to characters that the reader would not expect to be heros. Hester Prynne is a hero; she gains her confidence and loyalty through the struggles that she deals with. Hester grows as a person and refuses to give up when most people would give in the towel and just let life take its course. Nick Carraway would be considered a hero because he has strong qualities that represent what a hero is in the real world. He shows that he is not afraid of life and has the confidence to get what he wants in life. Through both these books the audience is able to get a new look on how society works and how it has changed over the years. The readers also realize by looking at theses books how society changed but the human race did not. Sometimes what one might think of as a hero, might be the exact opposite.

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