Theme of Alienation in Literature

923 Words4 Pages
Theme of Alienation in Literature A common theme among the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne is alienation. Alienation is defined as emotional isolation or dissociation from others. In Hawthorne's novels and short stories, characters are consistently alienated and experience isolation from society. These characters are separated from their loved ones both physically and psychologically. The harsh judgmental conditions of Puritan society are the cause of isolation for these characters and eventually lead to their damnation. The literary works written by Hawthorne, such as "Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil," and The Scarlet Letter, all contain characters that face these types of conditions. Goodman Brown, Minister Hooper, and Hester Pryne are isolated from society because of their guilty consciences, and desire to hide their shame. Eventually, each character is given a chance to redeem themselves and avoid damnation. In the short story, "Young Goodman Brown," the character of Goodman Brown has an experience that changes his entire perspective on life. Late one night he finds himself in the middle of the woods with the Devil, on his way to a meeting of the Devil's followers. After seeing respected townsfolk at the Devil's meeting, including his minister and his wife, Faith, he loses hope in humanity and all that he had known to be true or real. Goodman Brown wakes up in his bed immediately following the Devil's meeting and wonders if what had happened was reality or simply just a dream. Despite his confusion about the events that took place, he was unable to forget what had happened and lost faith in religion and his com... ... middle of paper ... ...e all contain the common theme of damnation caused by alienation. Goodman Brown from "Young Goodman Brown" loses faith in all of humanity and removes himself from society which leads to his damnation. Mr. Hooper from "The Minister's Black Veil" dies a gloomy death after living a mysterious life behind a black veil, which hides his secret sins and alienates him from the rest of society. Hester Pryne from The Scarlet Letter is alienated after she sins, but redeems herself by accepting her identity and reuniting with the rest of society. Hawthorne uses these characters to teach two different lessons. The first is of the damnation that is the result of alienation and isolation from society and humanity. The second is that reuniting with society can prevent damnation and put an end to alienation and isolation from humanity.
Open Document