Essay On The Outcast And The Devil In The Scarlet Letter '

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his novel, The Scarlet Letter, combines the archetypes of the Outcast and the Devil in Hester Prynne, while also developing a new mentor/initiate relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale to show the pitfalls of accommodation to authority versus free thought.
In Chapters 17 and 18, Hester Prynne embodies the Devil not as the evil adversary of heaven seen in Christian cosmology, but as the temptress toward freedom, even against the wishes and conventions of the surrounding society. Outside of Christianity, the devil figure represents temptation, freedom, personal power, new and daring thought, and, in its association with death, great change. As a result of her freedom of speculation remarked upon in previous chapters, Hester is able to suggest that she and Mr. Dimmesdale “leave it all behind” (pg. 155), which, to the rule-following
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However, Hester’s “seven years of outlaw and ignominy had been little other than a preparation for this very hour” (pg. 158), against the hopes of the Puritans who gave her that punishment. Instead of making her eager to serve her penance and regain the status of Respectable Member of Puritan Society, banishment made “the outcast” into “the devil”, by releasing her from the narrow confines of Puritan thought and giving her the opportunity to develop ideas and principles directly contrary to it.
Hester as the Devil also tempts Dimmesdale with the opportunity to “undo it all” (pg. 159), giving rise to the theme of conflict between individualism and conformity. Hester, as the Devil, trusts herself to know what is right, and the fact that her definition of right is different from her surrounding society’s definition of right doesn’t affect her or make her doubt herself. However, Dimmesdale, nestled deep within the Puritan line of thinking, “had never gone
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