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"The Necessity Of Identity" The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne Discusses Hawthorne's Themes Of Isolation Versus Communal Sin

764 words - 3 pages

The Necessity of IdentityA community is a social group whose citizens reside in a like region, share government, and posses a common culture. The Puritan societies that once populated the New England colonies captured this idea of community and heightened it to its extremes. The community’s stern regulations create a habitat which lacks personal expression and leaves little room within its boundaries for one’s own identity to be ascertained. Nathaniel Hawthorne demonstrates their austere standards for society throughout his novel, The Scarlet Letter. In a Puritan society dominated by the necessity to conform, only those who isolate themselves from the strict expectations of the community may fully develop their individuality.
Hester Prynne, despite the resentment felt for her by the society, is able to find her identity through her isolation. Though there is no punishment preventing her from leaving those who shun her, she would rather stay and accept what they perceive as sin as part of who she is than flee and be forced to conform to a new society. The isolation she faces by remaining allows her to embrace who she truly is:But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed from society….She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness, as vast, as intricate, and shadowy as the untamed forest…Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places, where she roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods…The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. (154)In being distanced from the other Puritans and their society as a whole, she is able to do what others may not due to the restrictions placed upon them. Ultimately, it is her scarlet letter, her punishment, which grants her the ability to reach out beyond the limitations of Puritan beliefs and fully adapt her identity.
The forest in which she and her secret lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, meet is the very symbol of the balance she seeks between the prevailing attitudes of the community and the individuality of her own person. In its physical isolation from the village and its inhabitants, she may be free to speak and act as her true self with her fellow sinner. Her...

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