Scarlet Letter Tree Map Project

Does isolation help or harm a person or society?


Quote 1: "In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. She stood apart from moral interest, yet close behind them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside, and can no longer make itself seen or felt," (Hawthorne 70).

Quote 2: "She had wandered without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast, as intricate and shadowy, as the untamed forest," (Hawthorne 166).

Quote 3: "Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers- stern and wild ones- and they had made her strong," (Hawthorne 88).

Hester benefited from being departed from the community. It gave her a chance to look on the outside of the town, and raise Pearl in her own way. Although she did not leave town like Pearl, Hester overcame the labeling of the scarlet letter, and became a stronger woman.

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Quote 1: "But she named the infant 'Pearl,' as being of great price- purchased with all she had- her mother's only pleasure" (Hawthorne 98).

Quote 2: "She 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; such as, ever since old Catholic times, had occasionally been seen on earth, though the agency of their mothers' sin" (Hawthorne 81).

Quote 3: "Day after day, she looked fearfully into the child's expanding nature; ever dreading to detect some dark arid wild peculiarity, that should correspond with the guiltiness to which she owed her being" (Hawthorne 74).

Pearl was was both harmed and helped by the community's isolation towards her. She was harmed in that she would always be seen as the physical embodiment of sin, but she was helped in that she did not have to be raised in the strict structure of the community. Pearl, in the end, became successful and affluent in another country, which overshadowed all the people in the town.

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Quote 1: "In for years past she had look from the estranged point of view at human institutions, and whatever priests of legislators had established," (Hawthorne 204).

Quote 2: "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another as the site of a prison," (Hawthorne 41).

Quote 3: "'There is the wide road of the sea,' continued Hester. 'It brought you here. If you choose, it will bring you back again. There you would be beyond his power and his knowledge! And what do you care for all these magistrates and their opinions? They have kept your better part locked away for far too long!'" (Hawthorne 163).

The community did not benefit from isolating members of the town. It made the character of the community harsh, bitter, and unwelcoming by creating a strict code of honor and structuring the way of living of stringent Puritan belief. In the end, the community hurt itself by not accepting all people who came through the town.


Quote 1: "Is that town, which not that long ago was just part of the forest, the entire forest? Where does the forest path go? Back to the settlement you say! It goes deeper and deeper into the wilderness, less visible with every step. A few miles from here, the yellow leaves show no trace of the white man's tracks. There you would be free! Such a brief journey would take you from a world where you have been miserable to one where you might still be happy!" (Hawthorne 159).

Quote 2: "Hester ventured into the woods...The stigma was gone. Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit," (Hawthorne 206).

Quote 3: "So strangely did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first encounter, and the world beyond the grave," (Hawthorne 178).

The woods symbolized a place where people could come to in secrecy. It benefited not only Hester and Dimmesdale because it gave them the opportunity to talk to one another, but also the separation of the outside world that did not have to come into the corrupt community.

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In the Scarlet Letter, author Nathaniel Hawthorne introduces a community where members are isolated because of the sins they have committed, or representing an idea that is different to puritan belief. From punishing Hester Prynne because she committed adultery, to the Indians because of their foreign way of living, and to the woods that symbolize a freedom from the overwhelming watch of the community, Hawthorne emphasizes the discrimination from the Puritans to the people, settings, and ideologies that they disapprove of. How it benefits the characters is hidden in between lines Hawthorne writes.

Hester Prynne depicted a woman who was shamed by the community, and she embodied the dishonor of going against Puritan values. By her having Pearl, Hester escaped from a group of people that she did not want to be apart of. She saw the unmoral of the harsh Puritans, which unknowingly benefited her and Pearl because they, in the end, got the upper hand between her and the Puritans.

The woods represented freedom, where people could escape from the eyes of the town. A haven to both Hester Prynne, Dimmesdale, Pearl, and the Indians, the woods were a place where people resided to for confidentiality and secrecy, namingly Hester and Dimmesdale’s relationship. It was beneficial to the group of people because it was the only place in the book where a person’s actions could be free from the Puritan’s judgement.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes a plot in the Scarlet Letter that results in characters being isolated. Because of the harsh structure of the community, the characters who were isolated had an outside view of the corruption in the town. In the end, the characters (Hester and Pearl) overcame their reputation as outsiders and lived to be successful. Otherwise, they would have been stuck in the routine of the Puritan community.