Nature vs. Society in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is unquestionably a great piece of American literature. It can be analyzed and interpreted in many different ways because of the plot’s intensity and characters’ diversity. Two aspects that stand out above the others in Hawthorne’s work are nature and society. With the use of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl Hawthorn successfully proves that a relationship with nature, which embodies purity and freedom, can draw one’s mind away from the corruption and enslavement of a cruel society.
Hester Prynne the main character of The Scarlet Letter is plagued with the adulteress “A” throughout the novel. Her Puritan society shuns, scorns, and talks negatively about her behind her back and to her face. Aware of society’s lack of acceptance of her sin Hester looks to nature for her own sense of security and freedom. “She had wandered without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast and as intricate as the untamed Forrest…Her intellect and heart had their home as it were in desert places where it roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods (1440).” The forrest for Hester was freedom from the “A” that society damned upon her. In the forrest she had the ability to take off the “A” and be her natural self. Chapter 18 states, “She undid her clasp that fastened the scarlet letter and taking it from her bosom through it among the withered leaves (1441).” After taking off the letter in her place of freedom she was clean of society’s evil eye against her. “O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom (1442).” Hester Prynne’s daughter Pearl also proves the burdens of society can be overcome with the beauty of nature.
In The Scarlet Letter Pearl exemplifies the sin of her mother. Known by the entire society as the daughter of the adulteress Hester Prynne , Pearl unsurprisingly seeks escape from the discomfort of society through nature. Throughout the novel Pearl is seen to associate with nature and in fact identify herself better with nature than society. “Pearl set forth at a great pace and as Hester smiled to perceive did actually catch the sunshine and stood laughing in the midst of it all brightened by its splendor and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion. The light lingered around the lonely child as if glad of such a playmate (1432).
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Nature Vs Evil Eye Hester Prynne Desert Places Main Character Puritan Society Forrest Enslavement Hawthorn
” If society was unappreciative to Pearl’s existence, and if parents told their children to stay away from Pearl, she went unbothered. Pearl’s greatest friends were the sun, grass, rivers, and trees. Pearl’s friendship with nature was so strong that she would even partake in conversation with the brook in the forrest. “O brook! O foolish and tiresome little brook! Cried Pearl, Why art though so sad? Unlike the little stream she danced and sparkled, and prattled airily along her course (1433).” Of course it would be easy for her to cry, sob, and moan about her mother’s wrong doings and her wrongful existence but nature aids Pearl in overcoming these thoughts. With the aid of nature Pearl becomes her own individual with her own goals free of society’s burdensome judgments.
This interpretation of Hawthorne’s work is best summed up with the passage, “Such was the sympathy of nature-that wild, heathen Nature of the forrest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by higher truth-with the bliss of these two spirits (1442).” For Hester and Pearl nature represented freedom from a society that was unaccepting of both of them. Nature however, was the direct opposite. It was always there, always appreciative, always accepting, and constantly full of beauty. As a human society we tend to forget the comforting feelings of looking off a high cliff, swimming in a natural river, and staring at vast grassland. Hawthorne successfully reminds us that with the help of nature it becomes quite simple to escape society’s pressures.
The Scarlet Letter Essay: How Nature Plays A Role In The Novel
Overlooked in many books, nature plays a huge part in the novel The Scarlet Letter. It plays its own character that seems to show emotions as well as its own likes and dislikes. It is where Hester and Dimmesdale first committed their sin and it also seems to be the first place where they are most forgiven from it. Metaphors were also created with the use of nature to keep things more connected throughout the book, and to keep the reader on track. Also, Pearl seems to have a connection with nature as if she is it in a human-like form. Talks of her being a sprite and an elf show this point clearly because both of those creatures take care of nature.
The forest specifically is where many of the important events occurred in the book and could in some ways be viewed as a separate world from that of the Puritan community. In contrast to the hostile and unforgiving society Hester and Dimmesdale lived, the forest was understanding and accepting to the two. It is to be understood that the sin the two committed happened in the forest. This split the two a part for at least seven years before they met back in the woods to find comfort in one another, in the place where their lives were changed forever. During the scene where Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest after seven years of being distant from each other, nature has a big role in letting the reader know how it feels about the sinners. When Hester wants to move forward with her life and with Dimmesdale, she talks about leaving the past in the past and getting on with her life. After this, she threw the scarlet letter towards the brook. "With a hand's breadth further flight it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook another woe to carry onwards, besides the unintelligible tale which it still kept murmuring about. But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel..." In this scenario, the river was telling Hester that her sin could not yet just be washed away. This leads one to believe that the forest...
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