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Alienation In The Scarlet Letter Essay


Alienation among many throughout Nathaniel Hawthones The Scarlet Letter, the main characters suffer psychological damage as a result of different forms of alienation. The character traits they posses make them more susceptible to certain types of alienation. Since Dimmesdale cannot reveal his secret to anyone, he can not share his pain. All the pent up guilt he has stored with in eats away at him, slowly deteriorating his body and soul. Dimmesdales masochistic and pious attributes greatly contribute to the extent of his alienation. For the reverend it was essential to his peace to feel the pressure of a faith about him. This need for punishment coupled with religious devotion gives reason for Dimmesdales secrecy. Hiding his intimate self from other people bestows Dimmesdale the punishment he so desperately seeks. His mental breakdown stemming from his social alienation is most clearly shown in the chapter the The Ministers Vigil. His self-torture leads him to walk under the influence of a species of somnambulism, thinking irrationally in a way not like himself. His pent up agony causes Dimmesdale to act out in ways like this that could reveal his secret. Dimmesdales psychological agony partly stems from a form of spiritual alienation.

As a minister, he has a close relationship with God and has a strong sense of spirituality. Due to his sin, his relationship with God suffers in the way that his sin separates him from the teachings of Jesus. Without the virtue and purity he once held, Dimmesdale views himself unworthy in the eyes of God. While lying on the forest floor, Dimmesdale utters The judgment of God is on me, he is too mighty for me to struggle with! To close this gap of isolation between God and himself, Dimmesdale commits acts of penance to relieve his sin. His acceptance of Chillingworths torture and his use of the bloody scourge both show his alienation. Dimmesdales faith and his position as a minister lead him to feel more guilt than a non-Christian. This religious choice makes Dimmesdale more susceptible to spiritual alienation.

Hesters Main form of alienation is most obvious in her scarlet letter. This token of her sin separates her from the rest of society by marking her as an outcast, forced to live in isolation in a cottage outside of town. The scarlet letter acts as a symbol of the main character trait that alienates Hester, her individualism. Her individualistic nature separates her from the restrictive and methodical community in which she lives. This alienation allows her to take an outside view on society and see its faults. Hester reject the values and standards of puritan society and yearn to cast away the fragments of a broken chain. Her alienation from the group is also due to her beauty. Other women are extremely jealous of her and wish the punishment of death for the sin she committed. The nature of Hester leads to her alienation such that others deem her expendable. Hesters self-alienation is perhaps most damaging to her psyche. Through her environment, she is forced to be untrue to her nature. Her passionate nature is suppressed and gives way to the conformity of society.

Hester, lost in the labyrinth of mind, is so detached from herself that she feel that she is not the same person. She is not only alienated from other people but she cannot even turn to herself for support. This self-alienation is most damaging to her because she is going through the stage in her life of finding out who she is and the scarlet letter interrupts this. She is not only forced to stop her development, but take on a whole new path in life. Through his actions, Chillingworth is alienated from everyone including himself. Because of his intellectual nature, Chillingworth is able to distance himself from others to systematically destroy Dimmesdale. He has become a different person as a result for his intent on revenge. The narrator acknowledges this change by saying A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment. Chillingworth knows what he is doing is wrong but he is so far gone, he cannot return to what he once was. He has given into his desires because he is no longer in touch with the moral and reasonable part of himself. Roger Chillingworth, a self-proclaimed intellectual, becomes a villain driven by revenge. This revenge separates him so much from other aspects in life that when Dimmesdale dies, Chillingworth soon perishes from the lack of substance in his life.

Hesters daughter Pearl, if discussed as a character, is alienated to the point where she is not really accepted by anyone. Her impish and unnatural nature separates her from humanity and especially puritan society. This fitful and fantastic little elf is essentially a free spirit in a society of constraint. Pearl basically suffers from the same type of alienation as her mother due to her wild nature. Pearl is only complete when she kissed his [Dimmesdales] lips and a spell was broken This shows the main reason Pearl felt alienated was the lack of a father in her life. The main characters in The Scarlet Letter all are alienated in one way or another. Alienation as a factor of injury on the human spirit is clearly shown throughout the novel. Even though the characters suffer from different forms of alienation and react differently to them, the damaging effects of separation, from others or from oneself, reverberate through all the people directly affected by the illustrious act of sin.

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