Hester Prynne's strength of character as well as her willingness to accept her fate prove to be valuable qualities necessary to succeed in an environment of conformity. Winston Smith's lack of courage as well as his fear of unpleasant consquences prevents him from expressing his true self. Though both characters stive to overcome the pressures of society, it proves to be more difficult than they anticipated.
Hester comprehends the she must compensate for her offense, but her deeds reveal a veiled disobedience. Although Hester herself is not allowed to dress in anything but drab clothing with the only spot of light being her bright red letter, she rebels by dressing her daughter Pearl in gaily colored clothes that express a "wild, desperate, defiant mood" (66). A similar example of Hester's silent rebellion and steely independence is showcased in the form of her behavior when she leaves prison; her audacity compares favorably to the rather gloomy assemblage she walks past. Within Hester at this moment is a glow of self-awareness and dignity is far from what is expected of her by the other townsfolk as she moves with a determination that she will be the master of her fate. Hester's quite open rebellion is in contrast to Winston Smith's hidden acts. The difference could be explained away in terms of intensity of the opposition; Big Brother may deal with violators more excessively than the Puritan leadership. However, there is every reason to justify Hester's fear and potential for injury being just as great as Winston's. The explanation could also point to a fundamental difference in character between Hester and Winston. It is interesting to note that Winston works Ministry of Truth as a revisionist writer of historical fact and that the first act of rebellion he commits involved writing. Writing is a very solitary act, yet can be more powerful than speaking at a rally before thousands. It is not the act of rebellion that Winston chooses that is at odds with Hester; they both engage in truly subversive actions. Winston and Hester are both equally aware of the central contradictions and infidelities that exist within their respective societies, and they take different routes toward subversion.
Throughout The Scarlet Letter Hester continues publicly defying the strict moral culture that defines her society and its laws. While strolling through the street, it is the other people who react with contempt toward the red letter she wears, but Hester herself never makes an attempt to camouflage the manifestation of her sin even by covering it with her hand. Isolation from those who would inflict their perverse values and mores upon her may be Hester's greatest companion. While loneliness is hardly a desired state of affairs for most people, it has its advantages. The way a person thinks about the world is not instinctual; there is nothing natural about it. Thoughts, opinions and philosophies are not formed in a vacuum, but are created as a result of what one learns and acquires through interpersonal interaction. Seclusion proves the distinct advantage of being free from the mindless clutter of so many nattering nabobs. Freed from the counsel of those who would drain her of intelligence, Hester starts to view the scarlet letter she wears as having a kind of supernatural