Looking around at adolescents today, do they even notice nature? Do they recognize the beauty? Probably not—they are too busy with television, social media, and the internet. Copious amounts of literature use the breathtaking and mysterious occurrences of nature to portray the mood and various ideas. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne displays his mastery of making the setting a key part of the plot. Hawthorne manipulates various natural scenes and feelings associated with nature to aid in the reader’s further understanding of the mood in the passage. Primarily through his use of the woods and sunlight, Hawthorne both skims and plunges deep into the novel’s core to create an atmosphere that makes the reader aware of how and what the characters are seeing and feeling in the book.
Hawthorne flirts with many forms of symbolism through nature, including the innocence and joy sunlight brings, to the fear and guilt of the graveyard weed. Throughout the book, Hawthorne associates Pearl’s childlike wonder with bright scenes and dancing sunlight. A passage with reference to sunlight seldom exists in the absence of Pearl. The reason for this must be that sunlight represents a child’s unadulterated soul and innocence, as shown in a section where Pearl tells Hester, “The sunshine does not love you… I am but a child; it will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet” (Hawthorne 126). Pearl points out that while Hester’s sin has tainted her; Pearl is untouched by any sin, which means the sunlight indicates pure childlike happiness. On the other side of the spectrum, Hawthorne evokes fear and shame when Roger Chillingworth tells Master Dimmesdale where he found the “black, stinking weed” with which he was b...
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...hrough into its limits. Sinners go to the dark forest because sin is like a dark stain on the soul that taints one’s life.
Nature is often Hawthorne’s vessel used to present crucial points throughout the novel. He involves nature because people find it relatable, as most have seen it or had the feelings he descends upon it using his writing. Hawthorne uses the forest to create two different major themes, as well as show that the amount of lighting in a scene absolutely matters. If there were no reference to nature in The Scarlet Letter, then it would hardly be cherished as a classic in the same way it is today. Hawthorne makes nature into a crucial part of his novel by creating scenes packed with undertones of joy, fear, innocence, and guilt, which is why The Scarlet Letter, among some of Hawthorne’s other works, are important to the history of American literature.
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