Conformity In The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Draft “All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity”-James Fenimore Cooper. Throughout the Romantic novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne establishes the idea individuality and conformity and how it defines one’s identity. By utilizing a cast of characters such as the young adultress, Hester Prynne and her secret lover, and young minister Arthur Dimmesdale, Hawthornes illustrates the internal struggle concerning one’s identity and position in society. Hawthorne’s representation of the strict Puritan society further outlines the consequences of singularity and …show more content…
As the characterization of Arthur Dimmesdale progresses, it is apparent that his false portrayal of his “holy” image in obedience to the Puritan community creates a struggle between the internal and external identity of the young minister. Unwillingness to conform to society ultimately leads to social rejection, therefore, outwardly, Dimmesdale presents himself as the pinnacle of holiness, the law abiding, pure minister. However, he has committed adultery and inwardly suffers from a guilt greater than any of his parishioners. In fact, the self-righteous nature of the young minister is described as “on every successive Sabbath” he appeared as the pious minister intent on serving the community. Although it seems like Dimmesdale is depicted as the ideal individual to the Puritan society in which he resides, the young minister is truly tormented by his sin. At the second scaffold scene during Dimmesdale’s vigil, he displays love for Hester and Pearl, but proffesses that “the daylight of this world shall not see [their] meeting”(Hawthorne 88). If Dimmesdale were to reveal his true identity as the other half of Hester’s adultery in public, he risks his much revered position and the community’s trust. The guilt from bottling this secret eventually takes a physical toll on his body as he becomes unsure about his identity. …show more content…
Although Hester remains under close examination by the public, the young adultress maintains her identity. In the first scaffold scene early in the novel, Hester specifically displays this when she emerges from the prison door with “...the letter A...which was of a splendour with the taste of age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony”(31). Despite the fact that the Putritan community brands Hester with the scarlet A for adulterer, Hester does not fight the judgement. She simply accepts the sin and its symbol as part of herself, just as she accepts her child, Pearl. Although Hester can hardly believe her present realities, she takes them as they are rather than resisting them or trying to atone for them. Hester accepts the scarlet letter not because society places it upon her chest, but because of her own religious beliefs and intentions. The redemption of her sin is the way God makes it, not the Puritans and only she can transfigure the letter’s meaning through her proceedings and self-perceptions. A badge of shame that looks more like a sign of defiance, is thrown in the face of the magistrates, a sign from Hawthorne to signify the laws of the Puritan government do not impress Hester. Throughout

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