In The Scarlet Letter how does gossip affect/blur the line between public and private life in America?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which the public and the private sphere are blurred through gossip is the way in which Hester Prynne, after leaving her confinement and seeking a quiet life in the obscure outskirts of the town is constantly denied her private life through the gossip of those who talk about her and look on her. For Hester, who wants nothing more to live a life away from the public gaze, the way in which she has to wear the scarlet letter on her bosom in front of everybody else means that she is constantly not allowed to live a private life, and her private business and affairs become part of the public gossip and discussion. Note how this occurs when she walks into town:

Another particular torture was felt in the gaze of a new eye. When strangers looked curiously at the scarlet letter--and none ever failed to do so--they branded it afresh into Hester's soul...

Hester, as the outcast of the town who has sinned and has been publicly shamed and labelled as a sinner, finds it impossible to lead a private life, as her business is always talked over and scrutinised by everybody else, even those who do not know of her.


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