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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Isolation Theme

Puritan society in The Scarlet Letter seems just as judgmental and cruel as any school cafeteria. Make one tiny misstep—spill your food; show up to school wearing the wrong kind of backpack—and you're an outcast, with the name-calling and ostracization to prove it. Pretty soon, you're hiding in the bathroom during the whole period just to avoid having to eat alone—like Hester Prynne, hiding out in a cottage on the outskirts of town; or Dimmesdale, respected by his community but without a single close friend. Ahem. Excuse us, we're having horrible flashbacks to middle school.

Questions About Isolation

  1. What's the difference between Hester's isolation and Dimmesdale's? How does isolation affect them differently?
  2. How does Hester's isolation affect her? How about Pearl?
  3. How do the landscape and setting contribute to a feeling of isolation in this novel? What is Massachusetts Bay Colony like? It is isolated?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Isolation empowers Hester Prynne.

Hester loses a sense of her own humanity as a result of being cut off from society.

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