The curse of modern civilization is the spirit of isolation

Question: The curse of modern civilization is the spirit of isolation. Discuss in the light of “The Scarlet Letter”


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s (1804-1864) manifestation “The Scarlet Letter”(1850) focuses on the theme of isolation. It reveals several types of isolation that are mentioned below with the reference to the novel. This is the mirror of the puritan society and in a broader sense not only puritan society but also it portrays the psychology of modern men like isolation and frustration and so on.

Physical isolation

The characters of the novel are isolated from each other. The protagonist of the novel Hester and the Hero of the novel Dimmesdale loved each other very passionately but with the fear of public humiliation, they are not able to mingle with each other. Only the union of their mind is presented in the novel. Another character Roger Chillingworth is the long-absent husband of Hester. They also physically separated from each other. Their conjugal life was not curses of modern society satisfactory for this Hester involved an illicit love affair and given birth to a child. From the above analysis, we can say that the characters of the novel are physically isolated which is one of the curses of modern society.

“My heart was a habitation large enough for many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household fire.”

Moral isolation

The story of the scarlet Letter has upheld the story of moral regeneration. If we minutely observe the entire novel we see that Hester and Dimmesdale are the sinner persons. After the cruel punishment, Hester has regenerated herself but at first, she was isolated from the moral ideas and values of her. On the other hand, Dimmesdale being a priest and the minister of the state he lost his moral faith and values. In the novel, he has been presented as a moral coward. This situation is well-matched with the situation of modern people.

More Notes of The Scarlet Letter

Social isolation

Social isolation is a great concerned in the novel. Though Hester is a sinner woman but the society excluded Hester bitterly. She has no relation to society. Even the little girl Pearl is excluded by the community. So they lead an isolated and secluded life in the forest. There is a great social distance between the society of Boston and Hester’s life.  If society sympathized with Hester and Pearl their life did not so pathetic. If we look into modern times we can get the same picture. The social people are not sympathetic to each other.

“She [Hester] remembered—betwixt a smile and a shudder—the talk of the neighboring townspeople; who, seeking vainly elsewhere for the child’s paternity, and observing some of her odd attributes, had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring;”

Religious isolation

The characters of the novel have pervaded from the true religion. They are practiced the fake faith and values of the religion. Dimmesdale and the other priest like John Wilson, Governor Bellingham, and Chillingworth all are isolated from the true religion. According to Christianity, forgiveness is the fundamental law of the universe but the social priests do not show any forgiveness towards Hester rather she is deprived of all the privileges of society.

Isolation results in frustration

The isolated person gradually falls into great frustration. Because of isolation and self-agony, Arthur Dimmesdale has led a frustrated life. At the end of the novel we see that to be free from the frustrating life has been confessed his sin publicly. When Dimmesdale died the former husband of Hester became frustrated. If we look at Hester, after her outcast she becomes frustrated and devastated. So we can say that modern people are frustrated because of isolation.

“It is the unspeakable misery of a life so false as his [Dimmesdale’s], that it steals the pith and substance out of whatever realities there are around us”


in light of the above discussion, we may terminate that The novel “The Scarlet Letter” is a fine portrayal of the spirit of modern man’s isolation. To put it differently, Hawthorne has depicted beautifully the modern psychology of isolation in the novel.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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