In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, life centers around a rigid Puritan society in which one is unable to indulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets. Every human being needs the opportunity to express how he or she truly feels, otherwise the emotion builds up until they become volatile. Unfortunately, Puritan society allows no expression of this kind, so the characters have to seek alternate means in order to relieve their personal anguishes and desires. Luckily, at least for the four main characters, Hawthorne provides such a sanctuary in the form of the mysterious forest. Hawthorne uses the forest to provide a kind of 'shelter' for members of society in need of a refuge from daily Puritan life.
In the deep, dark portions of the forest, many of the pivotal characters bring forth hidden thoughts and emotions. The forest track leads away from the settlement out into the wilderness where all signs of civilization vanish.
This secluded trail is the escape route from strict mandates of law and religion to a refuge where men, as well as women, are able to open up and be themselves. It is here [the forest] that Dimmesdale openly acknowledges Hester and his love for her. It is also here, in the forest, that Hester does the same for Dimmesdale. The forest is where the two of them engage in conversation, without the constraints that Puritan society places on them.
The forest is the very embodiment of freedom. Nobody watches in the woods to report misbehavior, thus it is here that people may do as they wish. To independent spirits, such as Hester Prynne's, the wilderness beckons her: "Throw off the shackles of law and religion. What good have they done you anyway? Look at you, a young and vibrant woman, grown old...