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The Scarlet Letter - Puritan Society

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 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, Puritan society did not

permit this kind of expression, thus characters had to seek

alternate means to relieve their personal anguishes 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. To independent spirits

such as Hester Prynne's, the wilderness beckons her: "Throw

off the shackles of law and religion. What good have they

done you anyway? Look at you, a young and vibrant woman,

grown old before your time. And no wonder, hemmed in, as you

are, on every side by prohibitions. Why, you can hardly walk

without tripping over one commandment or another. Come to

me, and be masterless." (p.186)

Truly, Hester takes advantage of this, when Arthur

Dimmesdale appears. She openly talks with him about subjects

which would never be mentioned in the town. "What we did..."

she reminds him, "had a consecration of its own. We felt it




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