Theme Of Forest And Forgiveness In The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter
As written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Be true! Be true! Be true!” (Hawthorne, 254). In a world full of corruption and deceit, the light of truth always finds a way to shine through, even in the darkest of places. It may be argued that forests and prisons, cloaked with gloomy ambience, are unlikely places to find this ray of honesty. However, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the author reinforces the rawness of truth and forgiveness, the destructiveness of secrets and revenge, and the evolving symbolism of light by the use of contrasting settings presented by the forest and prison.
While a forest and prison are two common settings in novels, they vary in their depictions, associations, and the events that took
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First of all, the destruction caused by secrets and revenge is displayed in the setting of the prison. When Chillingworth visits Hester in the prison, she rejects his inquiry about her fellow adulterer. She keeps Dimmesdale’s identity a secret, letting it become her responsibility. As a result, Chillingworth is unforgiving, and sets forth on a quest to find his revenge. Chillingworth stated, “His fame, his position, his life, will be in my hands. Beware!” (Hawthorne, 74) Chillingworth becomes so obsessed with revenge, that it consumes him and his life. He transforms from a studious and kind man, into an evil devil. He loses his soul. It becomes his sole purpose to make the father of Hester’s illegitimate daughter suffer. Consequently, after Dimmesdale exposes himself and passes away, Chillingworth’s motivation for living disappears. He dies soon after. Additionally, in the prison, Hester is forced to keep Chillingworth’s identity a secret. Hester pledged, “I will keep thy secret as I have his,” (Hawthorne, 74). As she watches Dimmesdale suffer at the hands of Chillingworth, the secret festers inside of her. She feels a distinct duty to Dimmesdale and guilt at his agony. Overall, the confining walls of the prison depict the inability for the characters to be open about the truth, and the destruction and misery that has resulted from the deceit and revenge-seeking. In…show more content…
Initially, light during Hester’s stay in prison is a reminder of the judgements of society. When Hester first comes out of the prison to face her trial, “She bore in her arms a child, a baby of some three months old, who winked and turned aside its little face from the too vivid light of day; because its existence, heretofore, had brought it acquainted only with the gray twilight of a dungeon, or other darksome apartment of the prison.” (Hawthorne, 50). Within the confines of the prison, Hester and the baby were safe from the judgments of the townspeople. This is why, during the child’s first exposure to the town, she turns away. She is not used to the invasive light and the cruelty. However, in the forest, light transforms into a symbol of truth and purity, just as Pearl’s relationship with it does too. As Hester and Pearl are entering the forest to meet Dimmesdale, Pearl is captivated by the sunlight, and notices that it does not shine upon her mother, due to the scarlet “A” on her chest. Meanwhile, Pearl absorbed the sunlight. “As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished; or, to judge from the bright expression that was dancing in Pearl’s features, her mother could have fancied that the child had absorbed it into herself” (Hawthorne, 180). This scene reinforces the symbolism of light to depict purity and truth. Pearl had always been truthful, and never sinned, thus
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