An Analysis of the Forest Scene

Essay by hellraizorpacoHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2004

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If one were to possess an imprecise stance on an issue, that person would be suspect to change their perceptions. This theory of ever-changing perception is present in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter; specifically in the forest scene where Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale meet. Hawthorne's irresolute feelings of Puritanism coincide with Hester's changing fortune. When Hawthorne believes in Puritanism, Hester is downhearted, and when Hawthorne disagrees with Puritanism and is a romantic, Hester is in rather good spirits.

Before his gravitation to romanticism, Hawthorne states that Hester is devoid of morals. An ardent Puritan, he puts Hester into a "moral wilderness in which she had so long been wandering" (166). The wilderness she meanders in is an environment lacking Puritan ethics. She came upon this forest for sin has irreversibly warped her character, an original Puritan ideology. Not innocent like her daughter, Pearl, "flitting cheerfulness was always at the further extremity" (166).

Sin so greatly weighs down her soul that she will never achieve happiness again. Hawthorne denies Hester of freewill, and thus Hester was not able to avoid her sin. In a sense, Hawthorne predestines Hester to revel in the depths of Hell, yet another Puritan principle. As an effort to redeem herself and return to happier days, Hester chases after the sunshine with her daughter. Sadly, "as she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished" (166). As penance for her sin, Hawthorne teases her with the sunshine, or as he sees it, happiness or God's grace. Whenever light encompasses her surroundings, the brightness neglected her and leaves her alone in the gloom of Purgatory. Both Pearl and Hester are depressed by this finding, and they venture further "as they plunge into some gloomier shade" (167). Hawthorne's, or God's, denial of joy to Hester sends her into...