Ridged Puritan Society in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
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The Scarlet Letter: Ridged Puritan Society
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid Puritan society in which one is unable to divulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets. Every human being needs the opportunity to express how he or she truly feels; otherwise the emotions are bottled up until they become volatile. Unfortunately, society did not permit this kind of expression; thus characters had to seek alternate means to relieve their personal needs and desires. Luckily, at least for the four main characters, Hawthorne provides such a sanctuary in the form of the mysterious forest. Hawthorne uses the forest to provide a kind of "shelter" for members of society in need of a refuge from daily Puritan life.
In the deep, dark portions of the forest, many of the pivotal characters bring forth hidden thoughts and emotions. The forest track leads away from the settlement out into the wilderness where all signs of civilization vanish. This is precisely the escape route from strict mandates of law and religion, to a refuge where men, as well as women, can open up and be themselves. It is here that Dimmesdale openly acknowledges Hester and his undying love for her. It is also here that Hester can do the same for Dimmesdale. Finally, it is here that the two of them can openly engage in conversation without being preoccupied with the constraints that Puritan society places on them.
Truly, Hester takes advantage of this, when Arthur Dimmesdale appears. She openly talks with Dimmesdale about subjects which would never be mentioned in any place other than the forest. "What we did..." she reminds him, "had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said to each other!" This statement shocks Dimmesdale and he tells Hester to hush, but he eventually realizes that he is in an environment where he can openly express his emotions. The thought of Hester and Dimmesdale having an intimate conversation in the confines of the society in which they live is incomprehensible. Yet here, in the forest, they can throw away all reluctance and finally be themselves under the umbrella of security, which exists.
In Puritan society, self-reliance is stressed among many other things. However, self-reliance is more than stressed- it is assumed. It is assumed that you need only yourself, and therefore should have no emotional necessity for a "shoulder to cry on".