Hester Prynne and Henry David Thoreau: Rebels in Society

Topics: Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter Pages: 4 (1294 words) Published: January 31, 2007
Hester Prynne and Henry David Thoreau: Rebels in Society

Hester Prynne is an anarchic force that destabilizes the status quo, allowing change to occur. She is a strong character, a rebel ostracized from society. The isolation she lives in brings her sorrow, yet grants her freedom of thought. Hester rejects the imprisoning commands of an accusatory society and has the will to fight against their influence over her nature. Henry David Thoreau also rebelled against the established orders of society and government of his time. He refused to support a government that permitted slavery, and voiced his opinions on individual liberties and responsibilities. Thoreau also contributed greatly to transcendentalist philosophy. Both Hester and Thoreau rebelled against the norms of society by choosing to think for themselves and refusing to allow society to shape their identities. "Walden," which chronicles his journey in search of an individual identity in the midst of industrialized civilization, illustrates Thoreau's rebellion against society. Thoreau's desire is for a life independent of industrialized society's rules and norms: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." (Walden 8). He feels that his life within this society results in a loss of freedom of choice and individual judgment. According to Thoreau, industrialized America turns men into machines who have no time for thoughts of spirituality or of a higher purpose in life. Instead, men's lives revolve around the vicious cycle of making and spending money. Within this system, there is no allowance for individual needs, desires, wants, or creativity unless they coalesce with the needs, desires, and wants dictated by consumer culture. Thoreau expressed a certainty in the power and the obligation of the individual to determine right from wrong, independent of the dictates of society. He saw that "…law never made men a whit more just…" and...

Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Garden City: GuildAmerica Books, 1992.
Thoreau, Henry D. "Civil Disobedience" A World of Ideas. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. New
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Captain John Brown. New York City: Random House, Inc., 1993.
Thoreau, Henry D. Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Walden.
New York City: Random House, Inc., 1993.
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