The Wilderness In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The wilderness has always been a place of mystery and purity, a space uncharted and unfamiliar. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the wilderness acts as a place free from societal judgement, where characters can express their true personalities. Throughout the story forbidden meetings and revelations of truth take place in the forest, where people are free from the threat of prosecution by puritan beliefs. While the forest acts as this safe space, the town acts as its counterpart, being a place of judgement and exposure. The town in the Scarlet Letter is the epicenter of Hester 's suffering. The inhabitants of the town are Puritan, and believe Hester is a sinner as she is an adulterer. Hester’s punishment for her crime was to not only wear the scarlet letter, but to be presented on platform in front of the entire town with her child. As she stands on the platform, she is the observed by the entire town, “The witnesses of Hester Prynne 's disgrace had not yet passed beyond their simplicity. They were stern enough to look upon her death, had that been the sentence, without a murmur at its severity.” (pg 52) This act of shaming …show more content…
Much of this stigma comes from the fact she is a bastard child, born into a life of sin. On the beach the reader is presented evidence of this portrayal as she harms innocent birds. However, a significant change occurs in her character as she realizes what harm she has caused the birds. Pearl did not like the fact she was causing pain to these creatures which were “as wild as Pearl herself”. This pain she feels suggests to the reader maybe Pearl is not such an evil child, and although being an inherently bad child, she is an empathetic person at times. This revelation comes while Pearl is in the wilderness, and it is significant that Hawthorne references Pearl’s wild nature, as it suggests pearl is as unprejudiced as the wilderness she frolics

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