Scarlet Letter 3 Essay

1369 words - 5 pages

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, life centers around a rigid Puritan society in which one is unable to indulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets. Every human being needs the opportunity to express how he or she truly feels, otherwise the emotion builds up until they become volatile. Unfortunately, Puritan society allows no expression of this kind, so the characters have to seek alternate means in order to relieve their personal anguishes and desires. Luckily, at least for the four main characters, Hawthorne provides such a sanctuary in the form of the mysterious forest. Hawthorne uses the forest to provide a kind of 'shelter' for members of society in need of a refuge from daily Puritan life. In the deep, dark portions of the forest, many of the pivotal characters bring forth hidden thoughts and emotions. The forest track leads away from the settlement out into the wilderness where all signs of civilization vanish. This secluded trail is the escape route from strict mandates of law and religion to a refuge where men, as well as women, are able to open up and be themselves. It is here [the forest] that Dimmesdale openly acknowledges Hester and his love for her. It is also here, in the forest, that Hester does the same for Dimmesdale. The forest is where the two of them engage in conversation, without the constraints that Puritan society places on them. The forest is the very embodiment of freedom. Nobody watches in the woods to report misbehavior, thus it is here that people may do as they wish. To independent spirits, such as Hester Prynne's, the wilderness beckons her: "Throw off the shackles of law and religion. What good have they done you anyway? Look at you, a young and vibrant woman, grown old before your time. And no wonder, hemmed in, as you are, on every side by prohibitions. Why, you can hardly walk without tripping over one commandment or another. Come to me, and be masterless" (Hawthorne 186). Truly, Hester takes advantage of this, as soon as Arthur Dimmesdale appears. She openly talks with Dimmesdale about unmentionable subjects which seem inappropriate in any place other than the forest: "What we did...had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said to each other!" (Hawthorne 194). This exclamation shocks Dimmesdale. He tells Hester to stop and quiet down, but he eventually realizes that he is in an environment where he can express his emotions. The thought of Hester and Dimmesdale in an intimate conversation in the confines of the society in which they live is incomprehensible. Yet here, in the forest, they throw away all reluctance and act as themselves under the umbrella of security which exists there in the forest. In Puritan society, people stress self reliance, among many other things. However, the people more than stress self reliance- they assume it. The Puritan people assume that you need only yourself and God, and therefore have no need for emotional necessity, no need to...

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