18 November 2012
When one’s social roles are not valued or accepted by society, alienation is generally the solution. Whether one chooses to make oneself distant from society, or one is forced to be isolated, the emotional damage and effects are the same. In life, and in literature, one’s emotions are emphasized by how one is treated by society. Society has the power to decide whether one becomes rejected or welcomed. The Puritan society in the 16th century was a group of people who were very judgmental and forced isolation upon many citizens who may have committed some type of “sin”. The great American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, exemplifies the Puritan religion in his novel The Scarlet Letter. The protagonist of the novel, Hester Prynne, demonstrates how committing a sin during that time can quickly change one’s life. After committing adultery Hester Prynne was isolated to the outskirts of town and labeled with a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom. The emotional stress of being judged and stared at by the entire town really took a toll on Hester. No matter how strong one is, being alienated from society during any time period can do irreparable emotional harm to any individual. Ryan White, an American teenager with HIV/AIDS, was a prime example of alienation during the modern era. Other teenagers excluded him and saw him as a misfit because of his disease. Like Hester Prynne, Ryan White was shunned and seen as an outcast of society.
Hester Prynne, a character in the novel The Scarlet Letter, was a victim of isolation by coercion. Hester was a member of the Puritan community and committed the sin of adultery with the minister of the town. Pearl, her daughter, was born through this sin. Throughout the novel Hester refuses to identify her partner in this adulterous act. Keeping the man’s identity secretive helped Hawthorne characterize Hester as a woman of strength and composure when Reverend Dimmesdale says “Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak!” (Page 63). Hester did not want her child to know her father as a sinner, she wanted him to be holy (Hawthorne 63). Keeping the man’s identity to herself caused Hester to be placed: On the outskirts of town, within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation, there was a small thatched cottage. It had been built by an earlier settler, and abandoned because the soil about it was too sterile for cultivation, while its comparative remoteness put it out of the sphere of that social activity which already marked the habits of the emigrants. It stood on the shore, looking across a basin of the sea at the forest-covered hills toward the west. (76) This is ironic because the early settler must have been nervous when coming to the new world. Just like Hester, he did not have anyone to turn to and must have been thinking about all the things he had left behind. Instead of being an explorer, Hester was a prisoner. She was condemned to being alone. Hester lived every day for years feeling on her own and as if she was not even human anymore: In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she had inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by other organs than the rest of human kind. (79) Society had really made Hester feel the pain of her sin. The community wanted her to pay retribution for what she had done. Hester had no sympathy from anyone unless they were a fellow sinner (Hawthorne 83). The letter “A” she wore reminded her every day of her immoral act, and the townspeople wanted to make sure to continue the abuse. No one had respect for her and none of the community members cared about how she felt (Hawthorne 49). Although...
Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. St. Paul, Minnesota: EMC Corporation, 1998. Print
Barlowe, Jamie. The Scarlet Mob of Scribblers: Rereading Hester Prynne. Carbondale, Illinois:
Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. Print
n.p. MemoryOf. TelNET, 2004. Web. 15 November 2012.
Typton, Jim. Ryan White. Find A Grave. n.d. Web. 18 November 2012.
n.p. Ryan White Story. Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), n.d. Web. 14
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