Scarlet Letter Individualism

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How does an adulterer live in a Puritan community, especially while being a Puritan minister? As seen in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the Puritans created a culture with ideals that emphasized darkness, restriction, and conformity. Both suffering from their mutual sin of adultery, Dimmesdale and Hester have contrasting representations of the forest due to their distinct identities. Living among the outskirts of the town, Hester Prynne becomes caught between the harsh Puritan laws and the freedom of the forest. However, because Dimmesdale possesses more of a Puritan identity, he becomes unable to retain the shame of his sin without physical deteriorating. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne juxtaposes the Puritanical and …show more content…
At the beginning of the novel, Hester participates in the most individualistic act in a Puritan community— having a child out of wedlock. In response to Hester’s act of adultery, the society forces her to wear a scarlet “A”. Although she retains her beauty at the beginning of her ignominy, Hester’s beauty and femininity slowly vanquish through the strenuous years of living with the scarlet letter. Through these years of being demeaned, Hester uses the freedom of nature to escape the restrictions of her society. During Hester and Dimmesdale’s meeting in the forest, Hester finally regains her femininity that her society oppressed. Hester’s renewal of beauty is characterized by the letting down of her hair and the removal of the scarlet letter, paralleling with the beauty and vivacity of the forest. By taking off her scarlet letter, Hester finally realizes the freedom that her society had taken away from her. The forest responds to Hester as she regains her beauty, as the sunlight floods into the private space: “Such was the sympathy of Nature— that wild, heathen Nature of the forest, never subjugated by human law“ (183). The forest becomes antithetical to the Puritan ideals, allowing Hester to be a free individual within the confines of the restricted Puritanical society. In the forest, Hester finally recognizes the meaning of her sin; that although the Puritans may deem her sin as a vulgar act, Hester understands that it was an act of true passion between her and Dimmesdale: “What we did had a consecration of its own”

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