Isolation is a driving force that can push a human being to the extreme. Some of the evil and good human behaviors such as hate can be blamed on solitary confinement. Isolation can be self-inflicted or inflicted by external forces. As this paper will depict, the theme of isolation is present in the three novels; The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Isolation is clearly brought out in different ways by specific characters or situations and events. The theme of isolation has also led to significant turning points in these novels and has made the three books have an edge as far as being interesting is concerned. In this essay, the focus will be on comparing and contrasting the theme of isolation as portrayed in the three novels. The primary focus will be on the characters that are used to bring out the idea and if at all isolation led to any significant decisions and events in the three novels.
In the novel, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the subject of isolation is clearly illustrated by four characters i.e. Hester Prynne, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth. It is a perennial topic and comes in external and internal form. In this analysis, however, the focus will be on Hester and Pearl as the most isolated characters. Hester Prynne is a young lady who was sent to the colonies by her husband who promises to join her later but gets lost at sea (Hawthorne 23). She is a major character as she is used as an acknowledged sinner. Pearl is the bastard daughter of Hester Prynne and an unmarried pastor called Arthur Dimmesdale. She is the evidence of Prynnes sin as she is the symbol of the act of adultery and also the act of love and passion. According to Kirk (44), the theme of isolation in The Scarlet Letter is brought out both physically and psychologically. From the beginning of the novel the light is thrown upon the topic of isolation when Prynne is ordered to put on the scarlet letter A on her chest for committing the sin of adultery in the society. By always putting on the letter A she was seen as an outsider and a person that was not supposed to be amongst the community members. The isolation was severe as she was to put on the letter for the rest of her life.
The isolation of Hester Prynne is inflicted on her by the society, and it does not define her moral personality. The reason for this assessment is that she spends almost all her life trying to establish a relationship with the rest of the society. With the letter "A" on her bosom she is shunned from the Puritan society she is always alone and takes up residence in an isolated cottage outside the town. She always walks alone in the village in an effort to get her 'bastard' daughter Pearl. The principal characters in the novel are cursed with loneliness; they seem to be isolated and alienated from the rest of the society throughout the story (Ryken 62).
Another character who brings out the theme of isolation in the novel is Pearl, the bastard daughter of Hester. She is alienated from the rest of the children in the society and cannot play or associate with them in any way. She is isolated because of her mothers sin. Furthermore, Pearl is separated from her mother, Hester. The isolation of Pearl is also as a result of her elfin-like nature and the way she is constantly hostile to the children in the village who mock her mother.
As much as isolation is evident and seems to be unfair to the selected characters, it has its advantages. In the case of Hester Prynne, the badge of shame makes her want to prove she is morally upright apart from the one deed that is used to define her. Therefore, the isolation contributed to her moral and mental growth. As she is isolated from the society, she uses her loneliness to give companionship to miserable people. In the case of Pearl, who is a free-spirited girl who only plays with animal and inanimate objects, she is seen as a ray of hope as she leaves the community in search of greener pastures where she settles down. Other characters that are isolated in this novel include Dimmesdale. He was the unmarried pastor who was involved in committing the original sin with Hester he was isolated because that was not expected of him as a preacher. However he goes through private suffering and torture and is too weak to make an effort of fighting the isolation, and the only deliverance he has is death. Chillingworth is isolated because of his burning desire for revenge. After his wife betrayed him, the physician feels the need to avenge. However, he instead succumbs to spiritual isolation and eventually dies.
In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the theme of isolation is mainly brought out by the lead character Huck. It is necessary to note that compared to how the subject of segregation was brought out in the novel The Scarlet Letter, in this book the theme of isolation is supported by a character's decision. In the Scarlet Letter, the characters that brought out the theme of isolation were isolated by the society for their deeds and their relationship with the people who committed the forbidden acts. On the other hand, in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the isolation of the lead character Huck was by his choice as he seeks to find himself. At the beginning of the novel, Huck is seen to be lonely even though he does not moan about it he says he felt so lonesome he most wished he was dead (Twain 12). Huck is isolated from his father. The isolation comes from the fact that he escaped from his abusive father in search for a better place to be. The isolation, however, does not last for long as Huck meets with other people in his quest including Jim, who is a runaway African American slave. Furthermore, Hucks isolation comes from the fact that he does not want to change. At a period when slaves were not seen as humans and were looked down upon, he decided to embrace Jim and care about him (Budd 39; Bartuca). The act of friendship to a slave portrayed Huck as a rebel and therefore people isolated him from the system. It is evident that the isolation from the society is not inflicted by anyone, but it is a choice that Huck makes. He does not appreciate the community trends and does not worry about worldly things he wants to be different by choice. So even if the society does isolate him he does not care much. It is evident that Huck was a lonely child. However, his loneliness made him venture and look for company, and he ripped the benefits by getting a good friend and a father figure in his life. Therefore, the choice to isolate himself from the society norms can be seen as a positive move because Huck benefited in the long run. The isolation made Huck behave in a better way than most people in a society that considered him to be inappropriate (Eliot 267).
All the five principal characters in the novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter are isolated in one way or the other. All the characters try to fight the isolation and leave the isolated existence. However, it is not guaranteed that the isolated characters feel bad about their situations. Some of the characters enjoy the isolation while other enjoys the isolation. A good example where the theme of isolation is brought out is when Mick decided to sit alone outside the window of the rich persons house while listening to classical music (McCullers 18). It is by choice that she decided to sit and listen to the music, and it can be seen as a thing that he is enjoying. The characters in the novel seem to be isolated even when they are surrounded by people. They are separated mentally, spiritually, and it affects their existence causing all sorts of problems for these characters. At the same time, Mick Kelly is isolated because she cannot communicate with the rest of her family members because of the difference in thinking levels. Mick is brilliant and ambitious unlike the rest of her family members. The difference, therefore, makes it awkward when it comes to communication. More so Mick does not feel like she can have any meaningful conversation or interaction with the rest of the family.
The theme of isolation is also portrayed through John Singer. He is deaf-mute, therefore, obviously he cannot communicate effectively with the rest of the people around him because he cannot speak (Whitt 78). He is isolated based on his disability. He does not have any control over his situation and therefore his isolation compared to the isolation of characters like Hester in The Scarlet Letter and Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is not because of his behavior or character. Biff Brannon, a character in the novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is isolated when he loses his wife to death. Isolation is evident when Dr. Copeland, an African-American is isolated by his family because of his level of education and the way he thinks. Factors that lead to the isolation of the characters come from both environmental and personal factors.
Isolation takes an effect on all the characters who feel like they have to talk to someone on the issue and what makes them feel isolated. The theme of isolation, therefore, leads to all the characters feeling isolated to confide in Singer apart from Biff, who does not confide in him. The isolation of the characters in this novel is something that they want to overcome so that they can feel happy. Whenever they speak to Singer, they always feel soothed and even if Biff does not confide in Singer he always feels comfortable in the presence of Singer.
The three novels apparently bring out the theme of seclusion or isolation. It is also noticeable that the theme is performed by the use of the main characters. Through their lives, thoughts and how they are treated in their respective societies. However compared to each other the causes of isolation are different. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, isolation is inflicted on the characters by the society based on their wrong deeds and association with the people who committed the bad deeds. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, isolation is self-inflicted as Huck runs away from his father and later feels lonely due to lack of fatherly love. In the novel The Heart is a lonely hunter, isolation is caused by personal and environmental factors like Singer being isolated because he is deaf and Mick being separated from her family because of her ambitious nature and education level. One fact though is that isolation had an effect on the characters. Isolation made the characters better people in some cases while it made others miserable. A good example is Huck, who made the most of his isolation and made new friends. Hester in the novel The Scarlet Letter decided to grow morally and give companionship to miserable people when she was isolated. However Biff in the novel the heart is a lonely hunter was devastated by the loss of his wife and could not even confide in Singer like the rest of the characters.
Bartuca, Joe. "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Journal entries (2015): n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.
Budd, Louis J. New Essays on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Print.
Eliot, T.S, T.S Eliot, and T.S Eliot. "Huckleberry Finn: A Critical Essay." Only Connect. (1980): 266-276. Print.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg, 1990. Internet resource.
Kirk, Susan V. Cliffs notes on Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley Pub, 2014. Internet resource.
McCullers, Carson. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Print.
Ryken, Leland. Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. Internet resource.
Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Oxford:...
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