Alienated Society in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Throughout history people have been shaped by the society in which they live. Those who accept the imposed rules and regulations tend to embody and reflect many of the characteristics of the society that guides them. However, those who do not conform and refuse the norms of society are often isolated from the contrasting group. Authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne have explored this concept through literature. In his novel, The Scarlet Letter, the protagonist Hester Prynne is presented as a figure alienated from society as a direct result of an adulterous affair revealing the harsh, unsavory truth of Puritan culture and providing a means of criticism for Hawthorne.
The novel takes place in seventeenth century Boston, a town dominated by both men and the standards of Puritan practices. Hester Prynne, the protagonist, is punished, marked with a scarlet A, for her affair resulting in pregnancy and consequently the birth of her daughter Pearl. Her lover is later revealed to the reader as Arthur Dimmesdale, the town’s revered minister. Before Hawthorne even introduces these essential characters, he illustrates Hester’s separation and struggle though powerful symbols. The opening chapter presents the symbolism of the prison door and the wild rose bush. The prison door “seemed to never have known a youthful era”, and was referred to as an “ugly edifice” (47). It represents the dark overbearing nature of Puritan society. Hawthorne implies that it is a deeply unsettling, outdated system. The ancient door has a beautiful wild rose bush thriving beside it, Hester Prynne. Just as the bush is outside and isolated from the door, so is Hester from society as the novel develops. The roses offer “their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner a...

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... meaning among the trees. When Hester and Pearl are without the bondage of society’s judgment they experience freedom from alienation of society. Hawthorne uses this situation to communicate that the strict confines Puritanical practices are both obsolete and more harmful than beneficial.
The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is full of passion and sin in a society that prohibits it. Consequences and shame reveal the flaws of this system. Hester Prynne is isolated for her actions. While society treats her as an outcast she still is able to survive and become a loving mother and better person, surpassing the level that her society provides the nurture to reach. Society is an exclusive group to which not everyone is able to agree with. However, while the Puritanical town of early Boston was meant to crush Hester, she became stronger through isolation.
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