Individualism In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter And The Scrivener

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The American Romantic era, lasting from early to mid-19th century, is characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism. Within this movement, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville’s Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street, the characters set at the center of their respective narratives both challenge societal prejudices through actions different from the social norm. Hawthorne’s protagonist, Hester Prynne, is met with disgust and disdain from the Puritan community after committing only one sin; contrarily, Melville’s Bartleby is first met with awe and love from his boss on Wall Street, working as a copyist. While Hester goes above and beyond to change her public image, Bartleby burns out, leaving…show more content…
‘This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die,’” (Hawthorne 49). With these harsh words, Hester begins a new chapter of her life in New England as a condemned adulterer. The gossips speak of “marks and brands” upon her “bodice” and “forehead,” and one is bold enough to suggest that she “ought to die,” demonstrating exactly how hated Hester is at the beginning of the novel. Hawthorne’s statement that the gossip who suggests the worst punishment, death, is “the ugliest of them all” infers that all the gossips are very ugly, while Hester remains beautiful, subtly providing a certain insight that perhaps Hester is not the devil the town thinks she is. This demonstrates how Hester stands apart from others in society, to such an extreme degree that she even looks different from the other Puritans. Through the ostracization of Hester, Hawthorne shows how her lack of motivational individuality has brought this fate upon her. He wants to prove to his reader that lack of this element creates an unbalanced and isolated life, one of which nobody wants to live in. Following the time on the

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