"The Other" as an Element Found in The Scarlet Letter

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The element of "the other" is strongly found in The Scarlet Letter. This element encompasses alienation, exclusion, and isolation, which can be found in the primary characters of Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. These people are ostracized because they have "deviate[d] from others' expectations (Williams 3)." In Kesterson's Critical Essays on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, he gives a good summarizing description of how the characters in The Scarlet Letter, Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth, are outcasts from society in different ways.

Hester, [...] makes emotional mistakes which lead to isolation; Dimmesdale, [...] [is] isolated as a result of an indissoluble inner tension; Chillingworth, [...] whose inhuman occupation leads to his separation from humanity; Pearl, [...] whose isolation from society and play-mates is the result of the negligence, mistakes or sins of the people about her, in particular her mother's sin. (Kesterson 130)

These situations and feelings are mainly the result of sin and guilt as well as intolerance.

The themes of isolation and separation are recurring in Hawthorne's works (Fairbanks 3). Hawthorne brings many of the emotions found in this novel from his own heart. "His sympathy for the outlaw and the outcast were grounded in personal experience (Fairbanks 3)." Ultimately, Nathaniel Hawthorne felt responsible for the actions of one of his forefathers, who was a judge during the Salem witch trials, and spent much of his life feeling guilty for situations and past events that were not his fault. Hawthorne expresses his own feelings of alienation, exclusion, and isolation from society that his characters in The Scarlet Letter face, but instead of feeling these emotions beca...

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...ility." Studies in American Fiction Spring 2001: 121-128.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Horton, Tonia. "The Born Outcast: Nathaniel Hawthorne's Pearl and symbolic action in the Scarlet Letter." Ritual in the United States: Acts and Representations. March 1985: 10-14.

Kesterson, David. Critical Essays on Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter". Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1988. 129-132.

Hall, Lawrence Sargent. Hawthorne Critic of Society. New Haven: Yale UP, 1944. 160-173.

Noble, David. "The Analysis of Alienation by 20th Century Social Scientists and 19th Century Novelists: the Example of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter." Myths and Realities: Conflicting Values in America. 1972. 5-19.

Williams, Kipling D. "The Scarlet Letter Study: Five Days of Social Ostracism." Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss. Jan-Mar 2000.
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