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Character at the Helm

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Character at the Helm By Charlie Nelson The idea that character determines one's fate is displayed beautifully in three works: The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, and The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Michael Henchard (Hardy's protagonist) is a man whose character is polar: he is either passionate and adamant or completely uninterested. This not only backfires on him but also continues to snowball until his destiny is met. Edna Pontellier, central character of The Awakening, is a woman of independence and defiance- that is, up to a certain point. She seems not to have strong wings, for she is "not thinking of any extraordinary flight" (138), and will eventually fall "bruised, exhausted, and fluttering" (138) from her world and meet her fate. Hester Prynne (protagonist of The Scarlet Letter), however, meets a different kind of fate. Whereas Michael and Edna stay consistent of character throughout the novel and eventually die due to this fact, Hester changes her character and evolves from status as an evil woman to one with some respectability. Enda and Michael's characters, due to their actions and behavior, have little control over their fates, whereas Hester, due to her penitence and good deeds, has more control over her fate. The character of MichaelHenchard is of an all or nothing, either "careless" or "intense" sort and displays that having no moderation or middle ground on any subject can be devastating. ...read more.


that no murners [sic] walk behind me at my funeral... that no flours be planted on (his) grave... that no man remembers me... to this I put my name." (321) The character of Edna is one of complete moderation. Defiant and independent, she has a pair of "wings" to call her own. She isn't the typical Creole woman- obedient of her husband or maternal figure. She does away with typical practices of Creole homes, like the one of les convenances, which is the practice of staying home one day out of the week to entertain guests. When asked once by her husband why she was out on one such day, she replies "I (have) no excuses. I told (the servant to tell the guests) that I was out, that was all" (101). She thinks her friend, a typical Creole named Adele, to have a "colorless existence" which she pities, and believes that such a life has "never uplifted it's possessor beyond the region of blind contentment... (and never has a) moment of anguish...visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life's delirium" (107). To add even more spice to her life, she becomes affectionate with two men other than her husband, Robert Lebrun and the Don Juan figure of New Orleans: Alcee Arobin. Her independence mentor, so to speak, is Mademoiselle Reisz. ...read more.


Upon her death, the "A" "cease(s) to be a stigma which attract(s) the world's scorn and bitterness, and (becomes) a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too" (227). The scarlet letter becomes a legend. While people still think it wrong for her to have committed adultery, they think it very respectable of her to dedicate so much of her time in helping others. She is once in a very sticky situation due to her passion, but then realizes she needed to give people time to forget about her past and to praise her good deeds of the present. And when the time is right, she decides that her passion should again rule. Hester, in a bind, uses her character to control her fate rather than let it destroy her. Michael's character remains consistent throughout The Mayor of Casterbridge as he is either totally for something or completely against it. Edna's character was consistent throughout The Awakening as she wanted to be strong and independent, but however was too weak to "soar" because of her responsibilities to her husband and sons. Michael's fate is thrown at him, and Edna helplessly succumbs to hers. Hester's character was not consistent in The Scarlet Letter, and this allows her to be more in control of her destiny and how she is remembered. By examining these characters, we see ourselves that character is fate-we can either fall prey to it or use it to adapt. 1 ...read more.

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