I have always wondered what the worst punishment possible was. Physical torture would probably be the first thing that comes to mind, but I personally believe that mental pain is much worse. Prisons, for example, do not physically beat the prisoners for misbehaving in society, but lock them up in small rooms and let their minds do the rest. Exclusion from society is a serious punishment, since it has a profound psychological effect on us. You might suppose that exclusion would be the worst punishment possible, but what about discrimination? One might be allowed in a group but might be judged about because of their distinct skin color or race. Social cooperation is a crucial part of our daily lives, and keeps us under control mentally.
An example of exclusion is evident in the Scarlet Letter, in which Hester Prynne has to endure the assailments and judgments from others in her society. She is excluded from society for the rest of her life just because she had committed adultery. Almost half of the book describes Hester’s emotions and how she cooperates and reacts to those feelings. Thus, it can only be logical to conclude that the isolation has a profound effect on her mentality.
By this point, you might have chosen which of the two types of mental punishments is the worse. Of course, we have our biases, but in truth, both are equally terrible treatments of the victims. Human beings thrive on social connections, and are gregarious mammals. We deteriorate mentally the longer we go without speaking to anyone. The more we converse, the more intelligent and outgoing we become. Overall, society shapes us, and we shape society, but what’s most important in our lives is to keep those connections strong and taut.