Role of Nature in the Scarlet Letter

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Daniele Luetke
AP English
12/20/12
Nature Essay
The Role of Nature
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, there are several chapters devoted to nature and its role in the novel. Every main character has some kind of an interaction with nature. In the beginning of the novel, Hawthorne relates a rosebush to the footsteps of Ann Hutchinson who, in the eyes of early Puritan society, was a criminal. However, nature knows she was innocent, so it responded to her with a pure rosebush. Whether nature expresses itself through sunlight, plants, animals, or water, it does touch each of the characters in its own way. The role of nature in The Scarlet Letter is to reveal the personalities of the characters through its actions.

To begin, Hester Prynne was a young Puritan woman, just like any other. She was, at one point, married to the character who calls himself Roger Chillingworth; however, Chillingworth was said to be lost out at sea after disappearing for a few years or so. During the time Chillingworth was gone, Hester found herself a new love, Minister Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester and the minister had an affair, which left Hester pregnant. Eventually, Chillingworth returns to find Hester with this newborn baby and the scarlet letter A, the mark of an adulterer.

Since Hester committed the sin of adultery, the way nature reacts to Hester’s heart and head, where her morals come from, has a very negative tone. In chapter eighteen, Hawthorne writes, “Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places” (196). Deserts are places in nature that are desolate, so nature is telling the readers that Hester’s morals are compromised because of the sin that she committed. Nature dislikes Hester because of the ignominy she carries with her, symbolized in the A. Another example of nature’s negativity towards Hester is when she tries to touch the sunshine, “As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished” (180). Sunshine is a bright, good symbol in...
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