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The Isolation of Hester Prynne

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There is nothing more painful than living in ignominy for the rest of your life. In a place that was known as Puritan New England, no crime was left without punishment. Hester Prynne went against the puritan rules, creating a child that will now bring joy to her, but will mostly haunt her. With all the hatred that Hester received, she reached a point in which she was no longer emotionally healthy. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, it shows that society is excruciating towards Hester, causing her to feel isolated.

Hester Prynne had committed adultery in a place where religion was very important. From the day Hester’s crime became public, people saw her as repugnant. Women, especially the older ones will usually say threats towards Hester. For example, “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die”. The time in which Hester steps out of Jail for the first time is when she first starts to feel isolated. All the people that were once close to her, now act as if they never knew her. Hester is alone, and she knows that from now on society will face her with a strong rebuke.

Pearl being small and innocent, was also considered an anathema. Pearl was the only person that felt anything but hate toward Hester. However, Pearl was the reason in why Hester is punished with wearing an “A” on her bosom. Throughout the book Pearl is seen touching her mother’s “A”. This causes Hester to feel pain. Not only does she have to live with a horrible symbol for the rest of her life, but her own daughter is constantly reminding her of it. This is one of the moments in which pearl touches the “A”, “One day, as her mother stooped over the cradle, the infant’s eyes had been caught by the glimmering of the gold embroidery about the letter; and, putting up her little hand, she grasped at it”.

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Once Hester became known as an exemplary to other women, she can no longer express her emotions and feeling to other people. In a website called GoodTherapy, it says “Isolation can increase the risks of mental health issues such as depression, dementia, social anxiety, and low self-esteem”. This relates to Hester because she is always dressed in grey clothing, and in The Scarlet Letter it says that she looks as good as dead. She has to keep many things to herself, especially Chillingworth’s grovel, which overwhelms her, causing her to become depressed.

Puritans have always looked at Hester’s “A” as a symbol of adultery, albeit after some years people started looking at the scarlet A as a symbol of able. For example, “Such helpfulness was found in her, -so much power to do, and power to sympathize, -that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification”. The puritans became more amendable toward the new meaning of Hester’s “A”. However, even though the puritans seemed to quell their hatred, they still treated Hester poorly, and they will always remember the true meaning behind her Scarlet A.

All in all, Hester was ignominiously beaten by the puritans, causing her to go through both emotional and social isolation. The mistakes of Hester lead her to be publicly shamed. Even with all the pain and suffering that Hester went through, her little Pearl was the biggest reminder of her sin. All the isolations that Hester felt, caused her to act differently and to enter a state of depression. This being said, the moment Hester gave birth to Pearl, her life became one of her worst enemies.

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The Isolation of Hester Prynne. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
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