The Scarlet Letter, Hester’s Characterization Through Isolation

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When everyone around someone wishes for him/her to not exists, how do they cope? The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne revolves around Hester Prynne, the heroine, who battles with isolation created by sin and exclusion from a strict Puritan community. Shame and mockery follows the perspective that the rest of society holds on her, thrusting Hester in a world of seclusion. Hawthorne utilizes Hester’s characterization to convey the negative effect of isolation on their individual in The Scarlet Letter.

At the beginning of The Scarlet Letter, Hester begins her life alone with Pearl; she is isolated from the rest of the town, which means she will be a subject for shame and mockery. The narrator depicts the growth of isolation from the cruel and unfeeling townspeople when Hester is on the scaffold. Hester stands in the spotlight for all of the townspeople’s attention, “[m]easured by the prisoner’s experience, however, it might be reckoned a journey of some length[…] she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung in the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.(2.17) Hester is a prisoner, a person deprived of liberty, stuck in a cage for all of those “that thronged to see her”;Hester’s shame from sin is first set on display for all to push her further away from the town. Hawthorne sets Hester in the scaffold as the spotlight where her sin is promoted to everyone in the town; in which they “spurn and trample” upon her heart that “had been flung in the street”. The scaffold serves as the starting point for which Hester’s isolation grows throughout the novel. “From the intense conscious of being the object of severe and universal observation, the wear...

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...where she needed to escape even further away from society. The banishment from society her allowed her insight to grow and understand how ridiculous the Puritans were and she wishes to flee to people where “thou mayest still be happy”. Throughout the novel, Hester moves further away from the scaffold, secluding herself and soon far enough to escape into another world.

The progression and characterization of Hester’s alienation in The Scarlet Letter illustrates that seclusion affects an individual in a adverse manner. Hester moves from the scaffold further out of town as her alienation progresses. This treatment by the Puritans toward Hester Prynne transforms her character from a young beautiful lady to a withered flower. The thematic idea of the unhappy human condition of isolation and alienation evolves through Hester’s characterization and inner turmoil.
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