Essays On Nature In The Scarlet Letter
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Daniele Luetke AP English 12/20/12 Nature Essay The Role of Nature In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, there are several chapters devoted to nature and its role in the novel. Every main character has some kind of an interaction with nature. In the beginning of the novel, Hawthorne relates a rosebush to the footsteps of Ann Hutchinson who, in the eyes of early Puritan society, was a criminal. However, nature knows she was innocent, so it responded to her with a pure rosebush. Whether nature expresses itself through sunlight, plants, animals, or water, it does touch each of the characters in its own way.
The role of nature in The Scarlet Letter is to reveal the personalities of the characters through its actions. To begin, Hester Prynne was a young Puritan woman, just like any other. She was, at one point, married to the character who calls himself Roger Chillingworth; however, Chillingworth was said to be lost out at sea after disappearing for a few years or so. During the time Chillingworth was gone, Hester found herself a new love, Minister Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester and the minister had an affair, which left Hester pregnant.
Eventually, Chillingworth returns to find Hester with this newborn baby and the scarlet letter A, the mark of an adulterer. Since Hester committed the sin of adultery, the way nature reacts to Hester’s heart and head, where her morals come from, has a very negative tone. In chapter eighteen, Hawthorne writes, “Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places” (196). Deserts are places in nature that are desolate, so nature is telling the readers that Hester’s morals are compromised because of the sin that she committed.
Nature dislikes Hester because of the ignominy she carries with her, symbolized in the A. Another example of nature’s negativity towards Hester is when she tries to touch the sunshine, “As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished” (180). Sunshine is a bright, good symbol in nature, and the fact that Hester cannot touch it proves she holds sin in her heart. Talking about nature and the forest in general, Hawthorne wrote, “The great black forest—stern as it showed itself to those who brought the guilt and troubles of the world into its bosom—” (200).
This quote tells the readers that nature is stern against those who are guilty, which reveals that Hester’s personality is filled with the guilt and shame of her sin. On the other hand, nature is sympathetic towards Hester as well. As soon as Hester removes the scarlet letter in the forest, nature responds with a positive reaction, “All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest” (199). This quote demonstrates to the readers that nature knows of Hester’s sin, yet is still forgiving towards her.
When the A is taken off, nature brightens and shows that Hester does have a good heart and is a good person; she just made a bad decision when she had the affair. Nature reveals that her morals were compromised, but when the object of her sin is removed, she has a pure heart and mind just like her child. When it comes to Hester’s daughter Pearl, nature has a different attitude. In chapter sixteen, the text says, “(Pearl) did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendor” (180).
The fact that Pearl can play in the sunshine proves to the readers that she is pure at heart and a good child. Many of the characters in the novel believe Pearl is a demon child because she is the product of a sin. However, nature reveals that those characters are incorrect because nature is unbiased which allows it to show the truth about the personalities on the inside rather than what is observed on the outside. Another example of Pearl’s goodness is, “And she was gentler here than in the grassy-margined streets of the settlement, or in her mother’s cottage.
The flowers appeared to know it,” (201). This quote demonstrates to the readers that the characters can be their true selves while they are in nature, as opposed to when they are in society. Nature again reveals that Pearl is a good, gentle child even though society depicts her as a demon. As for Roger Chillingworth, nature displays his true personality as well. Chillingworth is a very dark, malicious man full of sin and hatred, “Would not the earth, quickened to an evil purpose by the sympathy of his eye, greet him with poisonous shrubs? ” (171).
By stating that Chillingworth can turn the earth evil with just a look explains to the readers that he is deceitful and is allowing the darkness of revenge to consume him and change his personality. He is supposed to be a physician and care for the sick minister, yet all Chillingworth truly does is torture him. The townspeople believe Chillingworth is a helpful man, but nature reveals that he has allowed himself to turn into a dark monster, which the earth greets with poisonous plants. Arthur Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is not described so harshly by nature.
In chapter eighteen, Hawthorne wrote, “His spirit rose, as it were, with a bound, and attained a nearer prospect of the sky than throughout all the misery which had kept him groveling on the earth” (198). With this quote, nature tells the readers that Dimmesdale is a weak person that was held down “groveling” pitifully from the weight of his sin. He did not have the courage it took to be truthful and confess his sin to his loyal townspeople. He had to hide behind Hester, letting her take all the blame alone because he was not strong enough to face it himself.
However, nature does recognize that Dimmesdale is not a completely bad person because his spirit was allowed to become close to the sky after he did the right thing and vowed to admit his sin to the town. Nature in The Scarlet Letter has many interactions with the characters, mainly occurring in chapters fifteen though nineteen. Some characters were connected more with nature settings, like the forest, desert, or earth in general. However, others were connected with physical aspects of nature like sunshine or plants.
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Nature was able to show the true personalities of the characters that were not as obvious in previous chapters of the novel. The reactions of nature could also show hidden parts of the characters that the people of the Puritan society did not know, could not see, or were incorrect about due to their lack of reliable information and own beliefs. Nature allows the readers to better connect with the simplistic forms of the main characters without any falsities. All in all, nature’s main role in this novel was to reveal the true personalities of the characters and it succeeded.
Author: Royce Ballin
Role of Nature in the Scarlet Letter
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The Scarlet Letter Essay: How Nature Plays A Role In The Novel
Overlooked in many books, nature plays a huge part in the novel The Scarlet Letter. It plays its own character that seems to show emotions as well as its own likes and dislikes. It is where Hester and Dimmesdale first committed their sin and it also seems to be the first place where they are most forgiven from it. Metaphors were also created with the use of nature to keep things more connected throughout the book, and to keep the reader on track. Also, Pearl seems to have a connection with nature as if she is it in a human-like form. Talks of her being a sprite and an elf show this point clearly because both of those creatures take care of nature.
The forest specifically is where many of the important events occurred in the book and could in some ways be viewed as a separate world from that of the Puritan community. In contrast to the hostile and unforgiving society Hester and Dimmesdale lived, the forest was understanding and accepting to the two. It is to be understood that the sin the two committed happened in the forest. This split the two a part for at least seven years before they met back in the woods to find comfort in one another, in the place where their lives were changed forever. During the scene where Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest after seven years of being distant from each other, nature has a big role in letting the reader know how it feels about the sinners. When Hester wants to move forward with her life and with Dimmesdale, she talks about leaving the past in the past and getting on with her life. After this, she threw the scarlet letter towards the brook. "With a hand's breadth further flight it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook another woe to carry onwards, besides the unintelligible tale which it still kept murmuring about. But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel..." In this scenario, the river was telling Hester that her sin could not yet just be washed away. This leads one to believe that the forest...
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