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Alienation in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories.

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Matt Litchfield Mr. Ryan American Literature 19 September 2003 Alienation A common theme among the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne is alienation. Alienation is defined as emotional isolation or dissociation from others. In Hawthorne's novels and short stories, characters are consistently alienated and experience isolation from society. These characters are separated from their loved ones both physically and psychologically. The harsh judgmental conditions of Puritan society are the cause of isolation for these characters and eventually lead to their damnation. The literary works written by Hawthorne, such as "Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil," and The Scarlet Letter, all contain characters that face these types of conditions. Goodman Brown, Minister Hooper, and Hester Pryne are isolated from society because of their guilty consciences, and desire to hide their shame. Eventually, each character is given a chance to redeem themselves and avoid damnation. In the short story, "Young Goodman Brown," the character of Goodman Brown has an experience that changes his entire perspective on life. Late one night he finds himself in the middle of the woods with the Devil, on his way to a meeting of the Devil's followers. ...read more.


After Hester commits adultery, she is given the scarlet letter and faces lifelong shame from the rest of society. Hester isolates herself and her daughter Pearl from society and moves into a cottage on the edge of town bordering the woods. The society that Hester lives in, wishes to punish her for the sins she has committed. It is hoped that Hester will face shame and rejection for the rest of her life as a result of her scarlet letter. Hester redeems herself, however, by eventually accepting her fate and reuniting with society. She accepts the fact that she has sinned and the consequences of her actions. Instead of running away to a place where no one knows Hester and won't judge her based on her previous mistakes, She stays in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and copes with the shame that is brought upon her. Towards the end of the novel, Hawthorne states "She assured them, too, of her firm belief, that, at some brighter period, when the world should have grown ripe for it, in Heaven's own time, a new truth would be revealed, in order to establish the whole relation between man and woman on a surer ground of mutual happiness." ...read more.


Hooper remains the minister at his church but is the talk of the town forever. He is viewed as mysterious and as hiding his secret sins. After several years, Mr. Hooper lies and on his deathbed and still refuses to remove the veil. This mysterious behavior by Minister Hooper is ultimately the cause of his damnation. These three literary works by Nathaniel Hawthorne all contain the common theme of damnation caused by alienation. Goodman Brown from "Young Goodman Brown" loses faith in all of humanity and removes himself from society which leads to his damnation. Mr. Hooper from "The Minister's Black Veil" dies a gloomy death after living a mysterious life behind a black veil, which hides his secret sins and alienates him from the rest of society. Hester Pryne from The Scarlet Letter is alienated after she sins, but redeems herself by accepting her identity and reuniting with the rest of society. Hawthorne uses these characters to teach two different lessons. The first is of the damnation that is the result of alienation and isolation from society and humanity. The second is that reuniting with society can prevent damnation and put an end to alienation and isolation from humanity. Litchfield 2 ...read more.

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