Characters Lose Their Innocence Throughout American Literature

1625 words - 7 pages

Characters lose their innocence throughout American literature. What exactly does “losing their innocence” mean? Losing one’s innocence can be seen as a character maturing. A character may lose his/her innocence in ways including viewing of traumatic event, especially one that will scar his/her life forever. Losing one’s innocence can also be caused by losing one’s trust in someone whom he/she once trusted, catching a glimpse into the “real world”, or performing an immoral act. The recurring theme of loss of innocence, as seen throughout American literature and reality, can affect a person and the people around him/her both negatively and positively. As a result, the audience can see the characters mature through losing hope of dreams, becoming an outcast of society, gaining a new perspective of ideas, or gaining confidence. Negative and positive effects, falling onto characters as a result of a loss of innocence, can be found in works such as The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and The Hunger Games; this theme can also be seen in real life through the effects of children exposed to violent video games.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne’s act of adultery with Arthur Dimmesdale (Hawthorne 231) ultimately leads to negative and positive impacts on her life, including being isolated from everyone in town, being mocked and gossiped about, being more mature, and being more compassionate. One of the negative effects the loss of innocence has on Hester is that she becomes isolated from everyone in town. Hawthorne describes Hester:
In all of her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by other organs and senses than the rest of humankind. (Hawthorne 75)
Hester is shown to be aware of her situation. No matter what she does, she will never fit into society. The people of her town will always see her as an outcast, someone who they should never accept. Pursuing this further, Hester is also mocked and gossiped about. The hostility of other women towards Hester is depicted when the townswomen gossiped about how much more severe Hester’s punishments should be (Hawthorne 46-49). This shows how unforgiving and judgmental the townspeople are towards Hester as they don’t even bother to know her personally. In addition these adult’s actions influence their children to also have ill feelings towards Hester and her daughter, Pearl. The children are heard to say, “’Behold, verily, there is the women of the scarlet letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!’” (Hawthorne 92). Having children dislike Hester makes...

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