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Madness in The Scarlet Letter, The Raven and Much Madness Is Divinest Sense

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A recurring idea of an individual and a society in the American Romanticism made its presence throughout this collection. Emily Dickinson's poem “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense, has a base formality that resonates with how individuals may react to their current societies standards. Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne and pearl in The Scarlet Letter, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, to demonstrate certain interpretations of madness derived from Emily Dickinson

In “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” by Emily Dickinson, the author herself, focuses on the aspects of madness and conformity. The poem on lunacy and sense idealizes two opposite poles of central paradox. Dickinson solicits the reader to not take society’s idea of madness as its exact point value, and instead, think for oneself. Dickinson expresses, “To a discerning Eye- Much sense- the Starkest madness- Tis’ the Majority”(stanza 1-3). The Stanzas provide the people that view society with “discerning eye”, the ability to see will open up the reality of “madness” actually being reasonable. Dickinson suggests ‘experiences’ and ‘ideas’ of humans who are deemed ‘mad’ might reveal more about society and the world, than one could have realized. The speaker conveys much of what is considered to be insane, as an opposite. Stating only those that look at the world as independent and objective, will see clearly. Similarly, perceiving the world normal and sensible is an actual disadvantage of the worst kind of madness. Dickinson emphasizes on the majority's fault, a society will consider deem a person rational when they can agree upon society.

In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, protagonist Hester Prynne, habituates independent isolation. In regards to Dickinson, Hester has been rejected by society’s norms yet ministers to her own existence. Hawthrone reveals, “They branded it afresh into Hester's soul; so the symbol with her hand”(89). Though Hester had committed a sin, she chose to turn the scarlet letter “A”, into her own, diminishing any intended shame for representation. Self awareness had an affiliation throughout the novel, as did self sacrificing. Hawthorne divulges “Insomuch that you should no longer hide the name of him who tempted you to this grievous fall”(68). The continuous idea of Hester and self sacrificing can link to Emily Dickinson. When opposites occur and people are deemed “mad”, there is truth revealed in society, yet hold the reality of reason. Hester holds no shame in being an individual, she rises above society shunning her, only to prove society itself went mad in place of Hester.

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The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, uses Pearl to convey yet another connection with Dickinson’s ideology. Hawthorne expresses, “I am but a child. It will not flee from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet”(198). Hawthrone manifests Pearls unexplainable attraction of child with strength and wisdom. Pearl holds innocence, to not be pressured or forced to conform to social expectations. It is evident that independence made Pearl better; The natural remedies of life hold certain truths within children. Looking back at the childhoods of many individuals, most innocent days follow the wonders of having a vivid imagination. The mind is a powerful element, essentially it is the core to all measures that make up a human being. With that, it can also easily be corrupted through society’s influence. Growing up many have undergone development and change scientifically and morally. Just like Dickinson, the experiences and ideas set out can cause separation. Division will consume and the madness will flow, only to be labeled as unreasonable, however, perhaps there is truth the individual may hold. It should not be up to society to designate the sensible group as the majority.

In “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, The views of society and an individual relates to Emily Dickinson. “Here I opened wide the door; Darkness there and nothing”. Allan Poe illustrates true reality, The isolation and emptiness he faces . It is evident for romantic views on the idealistic feature of individual versus society, is a non comformity of isolation, but the society is the torture machine. Just like Dickinson, “All, prevail- Assent- and you are sane-”, has a continuation of seeing oneself as normal, yet there is an enemy working against an individual, being society. Having the constant degradation drives an individual to learn the truth about society and can be established in Hawthorns, The Scarlet Letter. “Speak thou for me!...Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knowest me better than these men can...Thou knowest - for thou hast sympathies which these men lack'(107). While society may have set forth to destroy Hester, Hester knew her reality. She was content and accepted her life choices, not once truly feeling shame or regret. Aiming towards the ending of The Scarlet Letter, the revelation of society, Dimmesdale, faces the dark ending of his life cycle, drove into madness from essentially a paramount secret that ate away at him. As for Chillingsworth, also society, facing the same fate, was driven into madness. Fundamentally, Chillingworth's good judgement is consumed by the foe in him, seeking vengeance over forgiveness that leads up to his demise. Corresponding to “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, the author also reveals the drive of madness. “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!” The narrator has been driven to complete isolation and emptiness knowing he will never see his lover Lenore. With complete isolation and change of livelihood, the guide of misunderstanding has one direct exit, madness. The society themselves, lost themselves in madness, leaving the individual to rise to greatness with clarity.

All in all, Emily Dickinson's perspective in the individual and society realm, is the madness of isolation of humanity and the sensible society being utter opposites. To be a variance with society is an immediate threat, leading to restriction for an individual emotionally and physically. However, an individual may carry the sensible, rational truth. With the propositions given by Dickens, other collections such as Hawthorne, and Edgar Allen Poe exemplify the notion of driven madness.

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Madness in The Scarlet Letter, The Raven and Much Madness Is Divinest Sense. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Madness in The Scarlet Letter, The Raven and Much Madness Is Divinest Sense.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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Madness in The Scarlet Letter, The Raven and Much Madness Is Divinest Sense [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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