Essay on Scarlet Letter symbolism of nature

Submitted By lab946
Words: 1772
Pages: 8

To describe the nature of Puritans and what living in the world among them would have been like, one may use words such as strict, rigid, and harsh. Puritans lived under many rules and tight regulations in their cookie-cutter towns. That being said, what is one thing that drastically contrasts this way of life? Nature, in all its wild beauty, powerfully challenges the structured way Puritans lived during the 1600s. While the Puritans in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter live in this strict manner, nature, in more ways than one, emphasizes moments of freedom and personal growth for Hawthorne's characters. Different aspects of nature help to encourage the characters in various ways. In The Scarlet Letter, nature stresses moments in the characters’ lives that contradict the typical Puritan lifestyle because these instances are raw and honest. The rosebush, the forest, and Hawthorne’s use of sunlight in the novel all work cohesively to single out these specific moments.
In the beginning, the rosebush by the prison door shows that something beautiful can exist in such an utterly desolate environment. It remains alive and colorful despite everything around it. It has not conformed to its surroundings, which are dull and bleak. The prison itself is a manmade structure, and the quaint organic rosebush sitting outside provides a contrast. Next to the prison door “[is] a wild rosebush, covered in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him” (42). The Puritans in the town built this prison as a place to send people who do not follow their rules, and the rosebush waits for them patiently outside, empathetic to anyone who passes through the doors because they have defied Puritan laws in some way. This may remind one of Hester and her approachable disposition. After the townspeople grow accustomed to Hester wearing the scarlet letter, they turn to her with their own secrets seeking her advice and understanding. On the other hand, “[the rosebush] may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom that may be found along the track, or to relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow” (42). This passage in the novel classifies Hester’s sin as an act of passion rather than something she has done to purposefully cause a disturbance. Her daughter Pearl is the “sweet moral blossom” in this passage. She was born into the situation she is in, and had no say in the matter. She is, unfortunately, the product of Hester and Dimmesdale’s sinful act. The torture and eventual death of Dimmesdale is the “tale of human frailty and sorrow.” Roger Chillingworth’s long-term goal is to make Dimmesdale’s life as miserable as possible without actually killing him. The result is a rapidly declining bill of health for Dimmesdale. Pearl is the result of Hester and her actions in the same way the flower buds are a result of the rosebush. The rosebush stands out in comparison to its surroundings, providing relief and an understanding perspective to the people who come across it.
Expanding upon the symbolism of the rosebush, the forest as a whole that surrounds the town serves as a place of freedom for the townspeople. Certain characters from The Scarlet Letter such as Hester, Mistress Hibbons, Pearl, and Dimmesdale, venture out of town into the forest when addressing their sins. Because the forest cannot be governed by the Puritans’ strict rules and regulations, the characters feel they can be themselves and remove their masks in the wilderness. The people in the Puritan community are blind and obedient, but the forest is a place for secrets to be let loose that cannot be acknowledged in the heart of town without consequences. In the town, Hester is ostracized by the…