Alienation in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by kinesh86High School, 10th gradeA+, March 2003

download word file, 5 pages 3.0

"A" for Alienation

Alienation is a common theme in all writing; however, in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, never has alienation been so vividly accounted. The Scarlet Letter is a story about Hester Prynne, a woman who commits adultery against her husband named Roger Chillingworth, with the local reverend named Arthur Dimmesdale; the result is a strange child named Pearl. The plot thickens as the mistress and the reverend strive to keep their sin a secret, and as Chillingworth appears back in town hiding his true identity; it climaxes on a scaffold where all secrets are revealed. Alienation is a heavy theme throughout the book, and it adds an incredible twist to see it's affect on the characters. Alienation is portrayed through symbols, behavior, and drama with Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale. Each character is associated with an important symbol that sets them apart from society. They also each deal with their alienation in different ways with different behaviors, and they are treated differently by society causing drama.

In the end, some can deal being outcasts from society, but some cannot.

Hester, the main character of the book, is most evidently alienated from society for her sin. The most important symbol in the book, the embroidered "A" on her bosom, sewed on as punishment for adultery, is also a symbol for alienation. She is different from all of society because of that mark, and can never live a normal life because of it. "...Let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart," (38), said a townsperson at first sight of the scarlet letter. As seen in this quote, society will always look at the scarlet letter as a wall between themselves and Hester. Hester's behavior shows how greatly she...