In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the protagonist, Hester Prynne, as a symbol of courage, responsibility, and unconditional love. Hester lives in 1600s era Boston and commits the act of adultery and must take responsibility for her actions. She is caught when she becomes pregnant with her daughter Pearl while her husband, Roger Chillingwoth, is away. Her husband has been gone from town for 2 years and the townspeople want to know how Hester has become pregnant without him. It turns out that the minister of the town, Arthur Dimmesdale, is the father. He holds a position of prestige in the town of Boston and is unable to admit his sin to those that look up to him.
The first trait that Hester Prynne represents is responsibility. She is forced to wear the letter "A" for adultery on her chest and she does so without complaining or whining. The officials of Boston want to know who the man is that impregnated Hester so that he can be punished as well but she refuses to give up his name. The quote "It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony as mine" on pg 47 shows that Hester does not want to tell on her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale.
The next trait that Hester exhibits in this tale is courage. Her courageousness is exemplified later on in the story when in the forest, she decides to leave Boston with Dimmesdale and forget about her husband, Roger Chillingworth. She rips off her scarlet letter and lets her hair down, which is looked down upon in the time where the story takes place. Hester shows courage early on in the novel when she first wears the Scarlet letter, "A", and stands tall on the scaffold in front of all the townspeople. She continues to work for the people by making dresses and clothes for them even though they know of her sin because she never tries to hide it.
Another trait that Hester symbolizes is that of unconditional love.