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The Crucible

By cartervance Apr 16, 2014 519 Words
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Vance 1

Carter Vance
Mrs. Kelley
Honors English 11
27 August 2013
The Effects of Exile in The Scarlet Letter
Two main themes of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter are exile and the effects of this embarrassing and horrific punishment. Hester Prynne, the main character of this novel, was indeed exiled and considered an outcast by the Puritan society of New England, which she called her home. As a result of Hester’s punishment by society, her experience with exile was both alienating and enriching.

First and foremost, Hester Prynne’s exile was brought upon herself. She committed the sin of adultery in a very strict and Biblical community. However, it could be argued that her punishment was quite extreme for the crime of passion that she committed. Regardless, her punishment was exile, and there was nothing that she could do about it. During the beginning of Hester’s exile, it was very lonely. The only person who was present to endure her struggle was her very young daughter, Pearl. The whole town had turned against her. This fact took a hard toll on Hester. Hawthorne’s description of Hester’s isolation is as follows, “haughty as her demeanor was, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung in the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.”

After being an outcast from society, Hester was transformed into somewhat of a social recluse. This became her way of life. After Dimmesdale’s death, Hester and Pearl moved away.

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Vance 2

However, it was said that years later, Hester did in fact return to New England to live the remainder of her life silently and alone.
On the other hand, along with alienation and isolation during the time of Hester’s exile, there was also much enrichment. Since Hester was cast away from society, she had a lot of time to think. These thoughts, as Hawthorne described them, “thoughts visited her, such as dared to enter no other dwelling in New England; shadowy guests, that would have been as perilous as demons to their entertainer, could they have been seen so much as knocking at her door.” This is an example of how her exile had transformed her into a woman of though rather than a woman afraid to think uncommon thoughts.

Another example of an enriching effect of Hester’s exile was the fact that she was looked upon a woman that people acknowledged as strong. Nathaniel Hawthorn so vividly states, “Such helpfulness was found in her, so much power to do, and power to sympathize, that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength.”

In conclusion, there were many effects of Hester Prynne’s exile. Some of them were good, and some of them were bad. However, the amount of good that came from her exile outweighed the bad from this punishment. Nevertheless, as a result of Hester’s punishment by society, her exile was both alienating and enriching.

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