Conformity And Individuality In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was written in a time when conformity was necessary for survival, while individuality was condemned. Those who conform to society do so because they fear being different and value being accepted. Those who choose not to conform, are often punished, whether that meaning literally or socially. Those who fear differences, humiliate and ridicule those who are different and use them to scare others to stick to the social norm. It is necessary for societies to possess strong individuals even though they struggle against it. Hester Prynne is conflicted with the need to conform to the Puritan society and the desire to be an individual. These opposing factors illuminate Hawthorne’s meaning that one must eventually …show more content…
Although she faces many difficulties, she refuses to lose sight of who she is. She maintains her dignity and sustains her strength throughout the course of the novel. Hester does not follow the preconceived ideas on how one should behave in the Puritanical society. By following her sexual desires with Dimmesdale, she goes against the societal norms, and by doing so, goes against the bible. The biblical beliefs of others do not hold Hester back from her desires and physically represent the significance of her individuality. When an individual rebels from the group, as seen in the way Hester does, the entire group must denounce the individual because the image as a whole is ruined. When it comes to religion, the Puritans must completely disapprove, especially of Hester’s sin. Ignoring the sin implies acceptance and thus, seemingly meaning approval. The community must show to God that it condemns the sin and the sinner, and are more devout Puritans than the individual who has sinned. The sole purpose of the letter A is to separate her from the others. An individual who has sinned, versus those who have not. Hester’s dignity allows her to gracefully accept her punishment. Hester is never afraid to admit her sin in front of the community. She stands on the scaffold “with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours” (50). Her outward display of dignity shows her individuality. If she begged for forgiveness or acted ashamed to try to regain admission into the community, whether or not they accepted her, she would not be an individual. Hester does not conform to their standards as being a sinless woman, or, even as a sinner, one that is ashamed. The letter A she is forced to wear is meant to show her life of repentance and shame she is supposed to endure, but by ornately embroidering it, it showcases her

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