Hester’s reasoning places her among the nineteenth century Transcendentalists with whom Hawthorne was associated. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in particular, argued that one should act according to one’s internal values and shun conformity to external authority, avowing in his famous essay, Self-Reliance, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind” (p. 15). The notion that religion had dominion over what was virtuous and what was not he singled out for especial disdain, seeing it as blind worship of a dead past that denied true unity with God.
Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid them take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. (p. 38)