The Role Of Nature And Society In The Scarlet Letter

967 words - 4 pages

Whispers Hester, “Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl!...We must not always talk in the marketplace of what happens to us in the forest” (359). This conversation takes place a few days after Hester and Dimmesdale’s tryst in the forest; indeed, whatever happens in the forest must remain hidden from the public. In the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne expressly forms a strict distinction between nature and society, essentially glorifying nature and vilifying society. By doing so, Hawthorne argues that nature provides individuals a place to truly be at their best; society, on the other hand, corrupts the mind of the individuals by forcing conformity.
Throughout the course novel, Hawthorne continually depicts society as evil, ignorant, and corrupt. As a group of people await the arrival of Hester Prynne at the opening of the novel, Hawthorne begins to set the scene of the town. “A throng of bearded men, in sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats, inter-mixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes” (72). Here, Hawthorne’s strong, negative use of diction conveys his pessimistic attitude towards society. By presenting the crowd as a “throng,” Hawthorne provides the imagery of almost a mob-like group. The fact that even the non-clergy members of the church, as suggested by their “steeple-crowned” hats, indicate that they, too, have merged with the group. By attributing the group to only their clothing and headwear in addition to “intermix[ing]” the women with the men, Hawthorne has virtually deprived all of faces. Presenting the text in passive voice in “was assembled” further implies this lack of individuality. That Hawthorne attributes the group as lacking individuality does indeed contribute to a greater belief of his: that society itself lacks individuality--rather, suppresses individuality. Individuals try so much to conform to society and to match its ideals that they have consequently restricted themselves within bars. Rather than actively judge for themselves, the group passively move as a crowd. However, Hawthorne did not condemn society, namely the Puritan society, in its entirety. Although he does recurringly denounce the system, he can not repudiate the undeniable warmth and sympathy of the people. When Chillingworth, a professional doctor, decides to move in with Dimmesdale, the father of Hester’s baby as well as a revered clergymen of the Puritan society, the Puritans are initially grateful. As time passes, however, people soon grew wary at which Hawthorne comments: “When...it forms its judgment, as it usually does, on the intuitions of its great and warm heart, the conclusions thus attained are often so profound and so unerring as to possess the character of truth supernaturally revealed” (189-190). To describe the people as having “a great and warm heart,” Hawthorne expresses his commitment...

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