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Hester's Alienation from Society Depicted in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Throughout The Scarlet Letter, the moral and social values pertaining to the discrimination of females by society is revealed through the alienation of Hester Prynne, the main character in The Scarlet Letter. During The Scarlet Letter, Hester is punished for her adulterous relationship with Reverend Dimmesdale which results in a child named Pearl. As a result of the adulterous relationship, the authorities of The Puritan society that she is residing in sentences her to wear a Scarlet Letter on her breast that is supposed to stand for adulterer, stand on a scaffold in front of the entire community for public viewing of her Scarlet Letter and Pearl, and serve a prison sentence. But in reality, Hester has a life sentence, the alienation from society because of The Scarlet Letter and how the community looks down on adulterers. Once released from prison, Hester does not try to hide The Scarlet Letter but instead, she flourishes it, separating herself from other women at the time who would be ashamed of it. Thus she is further alienated because women were supposed to conform to the society’s beliefs on how they should behave. Hawthorn chooses to discriminate Hester in The Scarlet Letter in order to ease his fear of the unrepressed female gender. Hawthorne’s feelings were common among male members of society during the time period The Scarlet Letter took place.
Hawthorne alienates Hester from society in his book The Scarlet Letter by putting her through embarrassment on the scaffold, sentencing her to wear The Scarlet Letter unless she succumbs to the masculine authorities and gives up the name of Pearl’s paternal figure, and portraying Hester as a witch who “saps the phallic power” (p.297), which Shari Benstock says in her criticism “T...


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...ibalistic” relationship Hester has with Dimmesdale, Benstock cites the scene at Governor Bellingham’s hall where Hester is trying to convince the elder’s of the church to let her keep Pearl. The elders were trying to take Pearl away from Hester because they claimed that either Pearl was conceived by the devil and had no moral capacity or God had conceived Pearl and Hester’s sinful life would only be an obstacle for Pearl when she tries to learn good morals. While convincing the elders that she should be able to keep Pearl, Hester overpowers the frail Dimmesdale while talking to him which brings Benstock to her conclusion; Hester saps the strength and overpowers Dimmesdale. Because Hester has some characteristics of a witch, the society assumes she is evil and thus alienates her from society which reveals how society operates under their values and assumptions.


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