Essay, Research Paper
Evil of Isolation
In the New Testament it states that “the wages of sin is death.” Though the
penalty of sin in The Scarlet Letter is not a termination of life, the evil of isolation can be
a physically, morally, and socially tortuous event in Puritan society. Hester Prynne and
Arthur Dimmesdale, in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, are both victims of the cruel
isolation from Puritan society on the basis of their sins. Hester wears her sin upon her
breast where it stands as a constant reminder of her malfeasance. Shame and isolation
strip her of all passion and femininity, leaving her a shell of her former self. Though
Arthur’s mark of shame is not visible, it is all the more tortuous for its absence. Shame
and guilt feed upon Arthur’s soul with slow malevolency. Only a combination of death
and confession finally release Arthur from his torture.
Though Hester’s ostracism from society and the tortuous nature of her shame,
Hester is stripped of all passion and humanity. Since society acknowledges Hester’s sin,
she becomes an exile in her own town. “All the world Ha[s] frowned on her,” and Hester
must bear the brunt of her shameful isolation. When Hester walks through her town “a
sort of magic circle [forms] itself around her.” Devoid of any social contact, save that of
her daughter, Hester must endure of lonely existence. “In all her intercourse with society,
save that of her daughter, there was nothing that made [Hester] feel as if she belonged to
it.”; therefore, she turns to herself for reflection of her shame. When Hester must walk
through the town, she suffers “an agony from every footstep.” Frequent suffering does not
inure Hester to her inner torment; instead, the same grows” more sensitive with daily
torture.” Hester’s ostracism from a stoic society and the burdensome nature of her shame,
deprive her off life. Treated as a dangerous delinquent by society, Hester begins to
question her humanity. Due to her intense suffering, “some attribute [departs] from
[Hester], which had been essential to keep her a woman.” Stripped of her passion and
femininity, Hester is left as an iron character with a solemn manner. Hester’s shame
remains to haunt her until her dying day.
Reverend Dimmesdale’s bought with the evils of isolation is distinct from Hester’s
due to the fact that his sin remains a secret from the public. Tormented by his grievous
sin and the duplicity of a fraudulent lifestyle, Dimmesdale’s physical stature is destroyed.
Arthur Dimmesdale is “a man burdened with a secret” that haunts his daily existence.
The only truth that continues to give Arthur Dimmesdale a real existence “was the
anguish in his inmost soul.” Arthur wears “his hand over his heart” an indication of his
shame eating away at his soul. In addition to the torture Dimmesdale endures from his
shame, he constantly suffers from the fraudulent duplicity of his lifestyle. To his
congregation, Arthur wears a mask of purity, however, Arthur realizes the blackness of
his sin in private. Dimmesdale endures a constant “bitterness and agony of heart” from
the “contrast between what [he] seem[s] and what [he is]” Due to his multiple lifestyles,
Dimmesdale is often “bewildered as to which may be true.” The sum of Dimmesdale’s
torment is manifested in the form of a “bodily disease,” which serves to deteriorate the
reverend. Dimmesdale is only able to find peace in death and confession. Revealing his
sin to society, he frees himself to advance toward God’s judgment.
The evil of isolation of Puritan society robs Hester and Dimmesdale of their
humanity, leaving them as stone monuments of shame. The isolation of Puritan society is
a result of their belief that “the wages of sin is death.” Only in death do Hester and
Dimmesdale escape the anguish that arises from isolation. However, the infancy remains
as their “only monument” after death. The destructive nature of shame is a powerful
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