Evil and the Second Sense

Anonymous

In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn the society of a Puritan town of Salem excludes anyone who is in any way deviant and renders that person sinful. However, the society, the townspeople themselves, is not without fault. However they try to conceal and contain their passions and all their faults because of their fear of exclusion. All the characters in the book that are excluded from society are the most "natural" and true and possess a second-sense perception and almost magical intuition.

Hester Prynne's separation from the townspeople is both physical and mental. She is expelled from the town as an adulteress, and she goes to live with her illegitimate daughter to a cottage "not in close vicinity to any other habitation." (68) They are despised by the whole town. Even children throw stones at them and chase them down the street. People do not dare to come close to Hester because of the mark as an outcast. To the townspeople, Hester's character is something different and uncertain from the values that they are used to. "Wherever Hester stood, a small, vacant area - a sort of magic circle - had formed about her, into which none ventured, or felt disposed to intrude." (206) Hester is destined to forever wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest - "A" for "adulteress" - a sign of her sin, shame and separation from the righteous people.

However, by being separated from the Puritanical town of Salem and all its prejudices, Hester is able to look at the people objectively and see much she was not able to see before. "Walking to and fro, with those lonely footsteps, in the little world with which she was outwardly connected, it now and then appeared to Hester that [the scarlet letter] gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts. (73) The people of the town are so busy covering up their faults and hiding their human passions, that they cannot see their own or each other's faults. Hester, who wears her Cain's mark of exclusion openly, does not have to worry about the opinion of others, and gains an intuition - an insight into the hearts of the people who throw her out.

Hester's mark of shame becomes a mark of being different, a mark of nonconformity. Many people interpret Hester's "A" as "Able" (141), for Hester's natural energy. Even after the death of her former husband and Dimmesdale, the man with whom she committed adultery, Hester does not take off the scarlet letter and return to live to the town. In the beginning of her punishment and solitary life, Hester has enough courage to beautifully decorate her letter, mocking her sentence. She shows her skill, and it seems like she takes pride in her token of isolation. When Hester is led back to the prison from the platform on the pillory, "It was whispered that the scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior." (58) Hester's mark becomes the guiding light throughout her whole life, even though, or, rather, because, the scarlet letter keeps the people and their prejudices away.

Pearl, as the illegitimate daughter of Hester, is also an outcast. Raised by Hester who never tries to impose any discipline on her, Pearl "could not be made amenable to the rules." "In giving her existence, a great law has been broken; and the result was a being, whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder." (76) Pearl is the most natural and pure character in the book. She goes "dancing and cavorting" on the streets, she chases sunlight, she is full of energy and is constantly in motion. Like Hester, she is given a very acute sense of the people around her. For example, she recognizes her father through her second sight. "[Pearl], that wild and flightly little elf, stole softly toward Mr. Dimmesdale, and, taking his hand in the grasp of both of her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender that her mother asked herself, "Is this my Pearl?"" (98) Pearl, not bound by anything except her own fancies, always does whatever she feels like in that instant. She is completely in tune with the world around her.

Another character who is not a part of