Settings in the Scarlet Letter

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Zakk Hartwig
PIB English 10
Period 2G
October 20, 2010
The Scarlet Letter

In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses many different settings to portray important functions and significance. Several of the settings such as the prison and cemetery, the town, Governor Bellingham’s house, the scaffold, the forest, the lighting, and so on have a deeper definition. The settings act as theme enhancers that make the novel more complex and classic. Hawthorne’s use of setting is spectacular in the way he makes it more than just a place or time; he makes it connect deeply to the characters and the plot. In fact, none of the aspects of the novel are irrelevant because everything relates whether it be straightforward or softly hinted.

First off, the “primeval forest” is a major symbol of freedom (Hawthorne 167). It is where Hester and Pearl meet with Dimmesdale and can exist like they are meant to; together. In the town, under the eyes of the townspeople, they have to pretend as if they have never loved and never known each other. Having to hide is hard on the heart and soul, especially Dimmesdale’s. However, without the watchful eye of society upon their backs they can throw off their burdens and unlock the shackles that society has placed upon them. They are able to do this because the forest is a “black” and “disclosed” world where no Puritan laws exist (Hawthorne 167). Some may view the forest as an evil place where witches, such as Mistress Hibbins, go to practice witchcraft, but the forest is also shelter of freedom for those that have sinned, thus Hester and Dimmesdale can be their true selves without having to worry about persecution and judgmental glares delivered by society.

In addition to the forest representing freedom, the recurring theme of the sunlight in the forest represents purity and truth. The sunlight always seems to find Pearl no matter where she is and shine bright upon her, implying that she is innocent and good. However, the...
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