In The Red Essay

1163 words - 5 pages

Hester Prynne admonishes Pearl not to "always talk in the marketplace of what happens in the forest." (Hawthorne 206) Hester's words capture the essence of Puritan life- the vast stretches of the mind skirting the edges of common existence. Hawthorne's juxtaposition of the marketplace and the secret woods illustrates the incredible difference between the Hester presented to the world and Hester as she knows herself.The "mystery of the primeval forest" (Hawthorne, 192) represents the "moral wilderness" (Hawthorne, 192) Hester wanders. The forest's "shadowy uncertainty" (Howells, 278) paints the fears, doubts and passions present in Hester Prynne. Yet she masks these with indifference and her good works; they remain unseen by those who dwell in the marketplace. The community rejects her initially because of her sin; she retreats to the edge of the village into the forest. Her remoteness physically and spiritually widens the gulf between her and her peers. The Puritan's conception of the forest as a "dark and gloomy place" (Kaul 18) reflects their "confined and joyless view of life."(Kaul 19) Yet their animosity with the "lawless forest" (Kaul 19) is understandable- the town "is situated precariously between the sea and the great wilderness." Accordingly, the villagers must constantly struggle with the earth to stave off being taken over. Their religion perches as precariously between other schools of thought, therefore they view independent thought and digression from the norm as extremely detrimental to the furthering Puritanism. Thus Hester's unrepentant deviance from social dictum makes her a formidable foe to Puritanism.But Hester scorns to beg their pardon. This "outcast and pariah" (Bloom 22) becomes the "only sinner...who manages to remain unrepentant"(Gale 355), even in the face of harsh misuse and cruelty from her peers. She scoffs at the stern and frowning god of the Puritans- she stands unbending and unrepentant before him. Yet in the forest, in the secret place, she throws herself at the feet of her God: the frail and hypocritical Dimmesdale, her partner in crime. She begs him to forgive her of her betrayal in neglecting to tell him that his constant companion, his physician, is her husband. Dimmesdale reels from the shock but forgives Hester forthrightly. In the forest, Dimmesdale forgives as a god; in Boston he suffers the torture of unforgiven sins.Hester and Dimmesdale plot out a plan of action in the wood. Hester proposes they plunge onward to the seclusion of "the boundless forest." (Hawthorne, 207) If that proves too taxing, the "broad pathway of the sea" to Europe offers anonymity for the small family. Dimmesdale acquiesces and submits to the "hidden, subversive and disobedient parts of himself" (Bewley 313) which has repressed so long.In the forest, Hester finds solace from the scrutiny of the village, she feels free. Hester's hair symbolizes her latent sexuality, but when they plan to leave together she lets is down in...

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