“In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is the target of obloquy and hatred at the hands of the townspeople.”

What is the best definition of obloquy?

Check your answer!

Choice A - The feeling of embarrassment or shamefulness
Choice B - The experience of being ostracized or isolated from society
Choice C - Abusive speech intended to shame or disgrace someone
Choice D - Speech that is harsh but intended to guide and direct


Obloquy (noun) – derogatory or abusive speech, particularly in the public sphere and with the goal of disgracing a person; or, the state of being publicly disgraced

GRE pro tips:

Like the GRE words loquacious (“overly talkative”) and colloquial (“of common or regional speech”), obloquy is derived from the Latin root loqu, meaning “to speak.” Considering that the Latin prefix –ob means “against,” it makes sense that obloquy refers to speech aimed against someone, or speech that is critical and derogatory in nature. It usually refers to such hateful speech spoken in public, where the goal of obloquy is to shame or disgrace another person. (Note that obloquy can also refer, more generally, to a state of public disgrace.)

An example of obloquy is the derogatory speech aimed against Hester Prynne, the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. After being charged with adultery, Hester is forced to forever wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ that represents her sin; likewise, she becomes the target of obloquy by many of her Puritan neighbors.

Example sentences:

“After revelations of corruption surfaced, the senator’s legacy disintegrated under a barrage of obloquy.”

“Because Karen faced obloquy after reporting the cheating that went on in the classroom, other students remained silent.”