The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter – Hester’s Alienation Essay, Research Paper The Scarlet Letter – Hester?s Alienation Throughout his book The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne is preoccupied with the relationship between the individual and society. Hester?s sin and subsequent condemnation alienate her. No where is this alienation more apparent than in Chapter 5, “Hester at her Needle”. Condemned by her sin of passion, Hester is separated from her community, not only physically, as she lives on the edge of the town, and socially, as she this chapter Hawthorne presents the most profoundly destructive aspect of her estrangement in her psychological condition. Hester, deemed a social pariah, is left alone in the world, with only her thoughts to keep her company. In her present

condition it becomes apparent that her outlook on life has changed for the worst. Hester?s life becomes a pitiful mess as she feels she must reject any happiness she might gain from her meager subsistence. She does not accept any joy into her life and she constantly punishes herself for committing her sin. Having been alienated from and by her community Hester forces herself to live plainly and simply. She “strove to cast ["passionate and desperate joy"] from her.” She loves to sew, as women such as herself “derive a pleasure?from the delicate toil of the needle,” but she feels she does not deserve the gratification. Though sewing could be “soothing, the passion of her life ?Like all other joys, she rejected it as a sin.” Hester no longer feels worthy to

wear the finery she is capable of sewing for herself. All of the “gorgeously beautiful” things she has “a taste for” are sold to others, they “found nothing? in?her life to exercise [themselves] upon.” Instead of applying her time towards “the better efforts of her art”, which she would enjoy, she employs in “making coarse garments for the poor” in order to repent for her sin. Hester?s “own dress was of the coarsest materials and most sombre hue.” Through her sewing, the wretched outcast makes enough money to live in a good deal of luxury but she feels she does not deserve it. She sought not to acquire anything beyond subsistence, of the plainest and most ascetic description.” All her “superfluous means” were “bestowed? in charity,” given to

wretches unappreciative of her talents, who “not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them.” Hester?s isolation from others causes her to concoct her own demons that are a constant haunting reminder of her sin and her punishment. She feels she is bound by iron chains that surround her heart and soul. “Through the terrible ordeal of her ignominy,” while she was in prison, the “iron arm” of the law “held her up.” Unable to free herself of the guilt, in her heart Hester perceives herself to be trapped by a “chain?of iron links”, which “galling to her inmost soul?could never be broken.” Hester begins to believe “that all nature knew of [her sin]” and her surroundings take on manifestations of evil. The sunshine, usually accepted as a pleasing omen

“?seemed?as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast.” In her tiny house on the edge of the dark forest, “not in close vicinity to any other habitation” Hester imagines that “the trees whispered the dark story [of her sin] among themselves” and she wonders if “the wintry blast shrieked [her sin] aloud.” Because of her initial estrangement and disparagement by others Hester develops an overwhelming paranoia which leads to her hopelessness, loss of faith and further separation from her community. Though Hester remains physically in the town, she is as good as invisible to the Puritans and she feels she haunts the town like a ghost. She has lost faith in her own tangibility. She stands apart “…like a ghost that?can no longer