The Loss of Innocence
Certain childhood experiences are missed out by some people because of mishaps early on in life. Any unfortunate event could cause the loss of innocence and make a child mature before his or her time. This event or experience would cause them to sacrifice their innocence. Many pieces of literature contain the loss of innocence as a theme. Examples of these would be The Scarlet Letter, The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, and The Catcher in the Rye.
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel that shows the theme of the loss of innocence. Although it is not a major theme, it can be used to describe Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne. Hester treated Pearl like the sin she committed, adultery, so she grew up like it. Hester pleaded to keep Pearl because “all that she had was the scarlet letter and her child." She is the living evidence of Hester’s crime and she is a part of her mother’s shame. The scarlet letter printed on Hester’s chest is there to
remind everyone of Hester’s guilt, which is something Pearl did as well. When Hester and Pearl went to see Governor Bellingham, Hester told them how she felt about her daughter. Sadly, she felt almost the same thing the Puritans did. However she also declared her love for Pearl. “She is my happiness - she is my torture, none the less. Pearl keeps me here in life!
Pearl punishes me too!”. The Puritans thought that this little girl was influenced by the devil. She was a little like the bearer of the truth. None of the other children were allowed around Pearl so she had no friends. She had a lot to handle as a child so this compromised her innocence. Pearl was being punished for her mother’s sins and she wasn’t accepted as a normal child her age would be. She had too much to bear at a young age.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was written by Mark Twain, Huck matures quickly because he has to help Jim escape the ill fortune of slavery. He is torn between the values of society and his young, innocent conscience. He is tormented by the thought of turning Jim in and doing what everyone else thinks is right or staying loyal to his new-found companion. He also has to use his intelligence to get down the river and bring Jim to safety. By making these decisions he is no longer a child. He loses innocence and becomes an adult because he doesn’t have to make the decisions a child his age normally has to.
Their were numerous occasions in The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, where loss of innocence was used as a theme. The first, was when Holden broke the window when Allie died. Losing his brother was a hard time for him. For him, Allie was the definition of innocence. This was because Allie was a child when he died. He didn’t grow to be an adult and become corrupted. Another major time is when he is talking about the children in the Rye field. Them falling off of the edge is their fall from
innocence. Holden wanted to save them from losing their innocence, so he wanted to catch them before they fell. He wanted to catch them before they became greedy and careless. In this novel, one is repeatedly
reminded of what Holden thinks of everyone but
himself. He hated society so much that he would leave school because of it. When asked why he left his previous school he replied, “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. They were coming in through the goddam window.”
Holden's parents can also be a factor in his obsession with keeping innocence. They tried to confine him to be like them in their world. That was something he didn't want. To him all adults, including his parents, were corrupted. They were phonies. This was the reason he wanted his sister to say the way she was and the same age she was. Along with his younger brother, Holden’s younger sister was the one person he cared about. Phoebe was still innocent but Holden was afraid of the day when she would grow up and become one of the people he hated.
In conclusion, many people’s innocence is lost because of tragic experiences in life. Many novels and pieces of literature contain examples on the loss of innocence. The loss of innocence is also the theme for many of these novels. Examples of these would be The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
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