Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" Hester's Alienation

1249 words - 5 pages

Throughout his book The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne is preoccupied with

the relationship between the individual and society. Hester's sin and subsequent

condemnation alienate her. No where is this alienation more apparent than in Chapter 5,

'Hester at her Needle'. Condemned by her sin of passion, Hester is separated from her

community, not only physically, as she lives on the edge of the town, and socially, as she

this chapter Hawthorne presents the most profoundly destructive aspect of her

estrangement in her psychological condition. Hester, deemed a social pariah, is left

alone in the world, with only her thoughts to keep her company. In her present condition

it becomes apparent that her outlook on life has changed for the worst.

Hester's life becomes a pitiful mess as she feels she must reject any happiness

she might gain from her meager subsistence. She does not accept any joy into her life and

she constantly punishes herself for committing her sin. Having been alienated from and

by her community Hester forces herself to live plainly and simply. She 'strove to cast

['passionate and desperate joy'] from her.' She loves to sew, as women such as herself

'derive a pleasure...from the delicate toil of the needle,' but she feels she does not

deserve the gratification. Though sewing could be 'soothing, the passion of her

life ...Like all other joys, she rejected it as a sin.' Hester no longer feels worthy to wear

the finery she is capable of sewing for herself. All of the 'gorgeously beautiful' things

she has 'a taste for' are sold to others, they 'found nothing... in...her life to exercise

[themselves] upon.' Instead of applying her time towards 'the better efforts of her art',

which she would enjoy, she employs in 'making coarse garments for the poor' in order

to repent for her sin. Hester's 'own dress was of the coarsest materials and most sombre

hue.' Through her sewing, the wretched outcast makes enough money to live in a good

deal of luxury but she feels she does not deserve it. She sought not to acquire anything

beyond subsistence, of the plainest and most ascetic description.' All her 'superfluous

means' were 'bestowed... in charity,' given to wretches unappreciative of her talents,

who 'not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them.'

Hester's isolation from others causes her to concoct her own demons that are a

constant haunting reminder of her sin and her punishment. She feels she is bound by

iron chains that surround her heart and soul. 'Through the terrible ordeal of her

ignominy,' while she was in prison, the 'iron arm' of the law 'held her up.' Unable to

free herself of the guilt, in her heart Hester perceives herself to be trapped by a

'chain...of iron links', which 'galling to her inmost soul...could never be broken.'

Hester begins to believe 'that all nature knew of [her sin]' and her surroundings take

on manifestations of evil. The sunshine, usually accepted...

Find Another Essay On Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" - Hester's Alienation

Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

2142 words - 9 pages      Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment.  The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed             Dimmesdale's instantaneous response to the sin is to lie.  He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father's best interest for her to

Morality in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

2158 words - 9 pages the defining characteristic of Hester's personality. She allowed all of her thoughts and actions to be affected by the letter, to the point where it became less a sign of her sin and more a sign of her redemption from that sin. However, either way, it defined her. This is implied in one passage which reads:   "...owing to a particular effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions

Individualism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1065 words - 4 pages Individualism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Often in society people are criticized, punished and despised for their individual choices and flaws. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author uses Hester Prynne to symbolize that those who challenge social conformities can benefit society as a whole. Though she has been banished for committing adultery, she sees that the community needs her. Through her

Two Faces in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1359 words - 5 pages The Scarlet Letter:  Two Faces               "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally becoming bewildered as to which may be true”. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, this quote applies to the two main characters of the novel. It applies to Arthur Dimmesdale in a literal way; he clearly is not the man that he appears to be, and the guilt that goes along with

Feminism in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

541 words - 2 pages Written in 1850, The Scarlet Letter stood as a very progressive book. With new ideas about women, main characters’ stories intertwined, and many different themes, The Scarlet Letter remains today as a extremely popular novel about 17th century Boston, Massachusetts. Not only was the 19th century a time for the abolition of slavery movement but it was also the beginning of the first wave of feminism. Women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan

Passion in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1371 words - 5 pages Hawthorne, in his novel The Scarlet Letter, examines how they are fundamentally the same because of their intimacy and the power with which they shape people and society. In the same way as love, hatred requires a certain intimacy between two people. A relationship cannot consist of either love or hate without there first being a close relationship between two individuals. Hawthorne explains that for these emotions to exist, “each, in its

The Pillory in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

652 words - 3 pages The Scarlet Letter - The Pillory     The pillory stands tall as "the very ideal of ignominy" amongst the Puritans (52). Its method of discipline involves the convicted criminal standing upon a scaffold, in some cases with their heads confined, for the rest of the population to gaze upon with disdain. It is an outrage against common nature for the culprit to be forbidden to hide his face for shame. By definition, the term "ugly" means

Alienation in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1160 words - 5 pages alienation. She is different from all of society because of that mark, and can never live a normal life because of it. "...Let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart," (38), said a townsperson at first sight of the scarlet letter. As seen in this quote, society will always look at the scarlet letter as a wall between themselves and Hester. Hester's behavior shows how greatly she is affected by her alienation. "Lonely

Hawthorne's Symbolism Is Scarlet Letter

647 words - 3 pages Symbolism was a literary movement during the nineteenth century that influenced many poets. Symbolism is anything that stands for or represents something else. "The Scarlet Letter", by Nathaniel Hawthorne is filled with symbolism which he uses to unify the novel and add a deeper level of meaning to the story. In the novel, the three most important symbolisms were the forest, the scaffold, and the scarlet letter "A" on Hester's bosom. But the

Hawthorne's Symbolism Is Scarlet Letter

647 words - 3 pages Symbolism was a literary movement during the nineteenth century that influenced many poets. Symbolism is anything that stands for or represents something else. "The Scarlet Letter", by Nathaniel Hawthorne is filled with symbolism which he uses to unify the novel and add a deeper level of meaning to the story. In the novel, the three most important symbolisms were the forest, the scaffold, and the scarlet letter "A" on Hester's bosom. But the

The Importance of Pearl in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1887 words - 8 pages The Significance of Pearl One of the most complex characters in The Scarlet Letter is Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Throughout the story, she develops into a dynamic individual, as well as an extremely important symbol. Pearl is shunned from society because of her mother's sin. She is a living representation of the scarlet letter, acting as a constant reminder of Hester's sin. Hawthorne uses vivid

Similar Essays

Hester's Alienation From Society Depicted In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

996 words - 4 pages Throughout The Scarlet Letter, the moral and social values pertaining to the discrimination of females by society is revealed through the alienation of Hester Prynne, the main character in The Scarlet Letter. During The Scarlet Letter, Hester is punished for her adulterous relationship with Reverend Dimmesdale which results in a child named Pearl. As a result of the adulterous relationship, the authorities of The Puritan society that she is

Hester's Deconstruction Of Puritan Ideals In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

832 words - 3 pages The Scarlet Letter - Hester's  Deconstruction of Puritan Ideals     Hester, the protagonist in Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, effectively challenges the efforts of the Puritan theocracy to define her, and at the same time, contain the threat she poses to the social order.   Throughout the novel Hester bears the mark of an "A" embroidered on her chest which was originally intended to label her as a social outcast, more

Hester's Romantic Ideals In The Scarlet Letter

1074 words - 4 pages “Be true! Be true! Be true!” (202). This powerful and simple message can be seen throughout the novel The Scarlet Letter. The characters Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale portray this message clearly. Hester lived this message. She was very true to herself and wore her “A” proudly giving her a more fulfilling life. She was true to herself and everyone around her allowing her to make her own experience, a concept the

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

1605 words - 6 pages Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is, at times, a piece that seems intended to drive one beyond any hope of reasoning. Its occasionally overpowering allegorical symbolism or its seemingly eclectic mythology can certainly seem like a purist allegory designed to imbue in one the fear of eternal sin. However, when one takes the time to read beyond the simple story and to realize the true nature of Hawthorne's verbal artistry, it becomes