Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Isolation

By Margery Kempe


It's hard being Margery Kempe. In her "material girl" phase, she learns that loyal workers are hard to find: one sign of divine anger, and off they pop to find more stable employment. Her spiritual life hardly attracts company. Her emotional connection to the life and death of Christ causes real (and by real we mean loud) tears and other kinds of seemingly crazy behavior that either frightens people or gets their goat. It's a serious problem for Kempe, who seems to be an otherwise social creature. Jesus tells her that this isolation buys her greater merit in heaven, but in The Book of Margery Kempe, our heroine finds that friendlessness can be an expensive price to pay for it.

Questions About Isolation

  1. In what ways does Kempe cope with the isolation and friendlessness she often faces over her lifetime?
  2. Which kinds of people are more likely to give Kempe a hard time about her peculiar behavior? Which are more accepting?
  3. Why is friendlessness or isolation particularly dangerous for Kempe, rather than simply emotionally damaging?
  4. In what ways is isolation necessary for Kempe's chosen life? In what ways is it difficult and damaging?

Chew on This

Although Kempe requires solitude to practice a contemplative life, her spiritual perfection also relies on interactions, both positive and negative, with other people.

Kempe seems to have a difficult time convincing the English that she is, in fact, a holy woman. Foreigners and those of other religions seem to recognize her worth right away.