Nature’s Unique Traits Unraveled in The Scarlet Letter
The aspect of Nature in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter seems to have been characterized to readers with having a mixed blessing. Rather than illustrating Nature in the typical Puritanical manner of the 1600’s, that Nature is downright evil, tying Nature to the “Black Man,” Hawthorne uses a different approach. Instead, Nature is fairly two-sided in that it portrays destructive as well as somewhat therapeutic powers. By means of this approach, the reader is able to extract Nature’s duality by analyzing its effects on various characters from the text.
In exhibiting numerous facets of Nature that are valuable to man, Hawthorne manages to disregard the notion set by the Puritans of the 1600’s that Nature is outright evil, and so is its influence on members of society. Selections of the text are clearly indicative of how Nature conveys feelings of renewal to both Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, by giving each an awareness of independence from the oppressive society. For example, Hester, by living in a "lonesome cottage, by the sea-shore,” (166) a typical representation of Nature, is able to invoke such reflections "dared to enter no other dwelling in New England” (166). Hester’s remoteness from civilization amongst the liberating effects of Nature, releases her from the restrictions that determine what beliefs are acceptable, permitting her mind to wander "as freely as the wild Indian in his woods" (203). Her "estranged point of view," (203) her "fate and fortunes,” (203) in addition to her homely cottage beside the sea-shore allows Hester to be at peace in her own home without having the burden of always being pecked and misjudged by the townspeople.
Similarly, Nature also provides Dimmesdale with a sense of relief and liberation from the oppression of society. For example, when bounded by society and lacking the warmth of Nature, Dimmesdale grows weary. He usually finds himself humbling into his place of study, where he cannot breathe anything but his "own polluted breath" (133). Longing to "at last draw free air," (133) and to live his life free of all guilt, he chooses to leave the confinement of the room and venture off into Nature. At last, he attains this much-anticipated sense of independence from his "long walks on the seashore or in the forest" (124) with Roger Chillingworth. Dimmesdale portrays his respite and pleasure in communicating with a being outside the usual realm of everyday life, as the feeling that "a window were thrown open, admitting a freer atmosphere into the close and stifled study where his life was wasting away" (124). The symbolic reference of Dimmesdale’s longing to breathe “fresh air” indicates urgency in escaping some sort of confinement. And in this respect, Nature represents freedom from oppressive situations. Through Hawthorne’s usage of metaphors comparing Nature to liberty, the reader is able to grasp features of Nature’s positive side as the...