The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1172 Words Oct 6th, 2014 5 Pages
For-est Libertas John Muir, pioneer of American conservationism, declared that “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” (Muir 313). For many modern Americans, the forest is a place of freedom, peace, and introspection. However, until the last century, the wilderness was often regarded with fear and resentment. Written long before John Muir and the conservation movement, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was well ahead of its time for its depiction of wilderness. In The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale leaves the beaten path and seeks refuge in the forest. There, he gains the strength and willpower to throw off seven years of hopelessness and take his fate into his own hands. Although the Puritans view the forest as a place of wild paganism, the forest symbolizes moral agency because it opens opportunity, transforms the characters into active agents, and asserts justice. First, the forest symbolizes moral agency because it opens opportunity to the characters. Agency requires two conditions: first, the freedom to choose, and second, choices to make. The forest plays an essential role in the plot by giving Hester and Dimmesdale the opportunity to choose a new life. Hawthorne explains that Hester chooses to meet Dimmesdale in the forest, “Partly that her conscious heart imputed suspicion where none could have been felt, and partly that both the minister and she needed the whole wide world to breathe in, while they talked together,—for all…
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