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Shame and Society in the Scarlet Letter

In “The Scarlet Letter”, Nathaniel Hawthorne presents this novel from a dramatic point of view, starting with the scene of the prison. Hester is displayed as an adulterous woman in a Puritan society, where sin is harshly accounted for. She is forced to wear her badge of shame throughout life alongside her daughter Pearl, yet the irony of it all is that she becomes one of the most helpful, phenomenal, virtuous people in her society.

Hawthorne uses symbols to convey his theme of the effects of sin. The forest symbolizes a harmonious place, where Hester and Mr Dimmesdale can share freely, to talk and reflect on their dramatic life changes. The forest is their gateway or getaway to solitude. It is a carefree place, where they are bohemians, remaining aloof from society and can carouse through the forest and be candid with one another.

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The forest as a symbol helps to develop the story more accurately. Hawthorne conveys this symbol, in order to pertain to his sense of drama throughout the character’s lives. Symbols are an important literary element, that Hawthorne takes advantage of by showing, depth, depression, freedom to confess sin and other inhibitions.

In the forest, a quiet, private and most recluse place, Hester and Mr Dimmesdale relax near a babbling brook, with the green moss comforting them. Mr Dimmesdale now finds this is the place to be straightforward with Hester and make their plans for their getaway. The forest holds the secrets that Hester and Mr Dimmesdale share. This place is the only freedom they have to really talk, without having to worry about townspeople associating themselves together.

A forest is a place of mystery and mystique. The sister of Governor Bellingham, (Mistress Hibbins), is seen as a witch, who often remains aloof from society as Hester has remained. The black man with the writings in his book holds the names, written in blood, of the people he meets amongst the trees, is a mystery himself. Pearl is quite contrary to evil herself. When Hester feels free and takes down her hair and finally discards the letter into the brook, Pearl is frantic at the sight of the missing letter. Hester feels free at times, but Pearl binds her to the letter and she can never escape from it. Only certain times, when Hester is alone with Mr Dimmesdale can she feel alive and situated at ease. The forest holds these stipulations.

In closing, Hawthorne leaves the novel open to his abundant use of symbolism. The forest a symbol, and the most patent place to ponder, together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices enables Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter to develop the theme of the effects of sin.

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Shame and Society in the Scarlet Letter. (2021, Mar 02). Retrieved August 2, 2021, from