Symbolism of the Forest in The Scarlet Letter
In The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “For what other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one’s self!” Hawthorne asserts that every individual becomes a hostage of his or her own heart. This idea is displayed throughout The Scarlet Letter to portray how Puritans lived under the constant repression of the Puritan society. Puritan society lived by laws that allowed no means of freedom or happiness and kept their citizens under a strict moral law code. The Puritan civilization imprisons members of society to the point where they are crying out for freedom. Therefore, hostages of his or her own heart embark on a journey to free themselves. This is displayed continuously in The Scarlet Letter through its use of the forest. In the novel the forest consists of multiple meanings. It serves as another world apart from the Puritan society, and it provides a haven in which people break free from the social order. Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne presents the forest as a symbolic figure to exemplify free will, bring forth the natural personalities of the characters, and to represent a dark civilization within the Puritan society.
First, the forest is a symbol to epitomize free will in The Scarlet Letter by presenting the forest as a safe haven with no rules or individuals who scrutinize every action being made. Thus, the townspeople approach the forest to reign free with their desires and longings. For example, Hester longs to meet Dimmesdale and determines that the forest is the safest place as she is allowed to meet with him without the town knowing. As Hester and Dimmesdale greet each other, “…it was like the first encounter, in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately connected in their former life, but now stood coldly…” (Hawthorne 198). For the first time in seven years they are able to meet with each other in...
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