“The path strangled onward into the mystery of the primeval forest”(179).
This sentence displays just one of the multiple personalities that the forest
symbolizes in The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorn. As seen in the
epic story Wizard of OZ, the forest represents a place of evil and delight, but
in the Scarlet Letter the forest symbolizes much more then that. Each character
brings out a different side of the forest, however the forest also brings out a
different side in each character. For some the forest may be a place of
sinister thoughts and wrong doing, but for others it is a place of happiness and
The first encounter with the forest we have symbolizes just some of the
evil that lingers within the darkness of the forest. As Hester and Pearl are
leaving governor Bellinghams estate they are confronted by mistress Hibbins who
explains that the witches are meeting in the forest, and she then invites Hester
to become more deeply involved with her evil ways. “Wilt thou go with us
tonight”(113) asked mistress Hibbins, yet Hester refused to sign her name in the
black mans book on that night.
She explains that the only reason she does not
sign is because Pearl is still in her life. At this time the forest itself is a
open door to another world, a wicked world that would take her away from her
present situation, but that is not the only door that the forest holds.
The forest is an open door to love and freedom for both Hester and
Dimmesdale. It is a place where the letter on their bodies can no longer have
an effect on them if they choose.
A world ruled by nature and governed by
natural law as opposed to the artificial strict community with its man made
puritan laws. Its as if the forest represents a key to the shackles the Hester
and Dimmesdale have been forced to wear, all that they have to do is unlock it.
Although if they choose not to unlock them, they begin to dwell on the things
that they have done to deserve the shackles. In this the forest represents a
thing of truth, weather it be good or bad.
In pearls eyes the forest has a totally different concept. To Pearl the
forest is like a best friend. It treats her as if she were one of its own. The
animals do not runaway at her ever move, instead they come to her with open arms.
The light is chasing her no matter where she goes. She is able to run and play
freely to her innocent hearts content. She can do that because her heart is
innocent and the forest recognizes that.
When reading this book you can look deeper into the forest and find more
powerful symbols inside. The sunlight is one of the most obvious of them all.
While Pearl plays in the forest the sunlight seems to find her no matter where
she is standing. At the same time it will not cast a single glimmer of light
onto Hester, until she removes her scarlet letter. Then at that point the sun
breaks through the dense trees and gazes upon her. The light is a symbol of
purity and truth. It does not shine on Hester when she has the letter because
the letter itself is not pure, even though everything underneath the letter has
become pure through the years.
The Brooke that runs through the forest is also full of symbolism. At
one point of the story the Brooke represents a wall. “Then strange child, why
does thou not come to me?”(205) asks Hester. She explains that she will not
cross the Brooke because she Hester is not wearing her letter. To Dimmesdale
the Brooke then becomes a boundary between two worlds, a world of peace and
freedom and a world of lies and guilt. The Brooke is also known to symbolize
one more thing throughout the entire story. It is often suggestive that the
Brooke often represents pearl.
One reason is because the Brooke has an unknown
source, Pearl also has an unknown source, meaning that most people don’t know
where the Brooke or Pearl came from. One more similarity between the two is
that the Brooke is woven trough a dark and often evil forest, yet the water does
not stop traveling. Pearl is in the exact same situation. Throughout her hole
life she has been unwillingly woven into the evil and sorrow the her mother
deals with. So just as the Brooke she keeps on going.
As you have seen there is a fountain of symbolism in the Scarlet Letter.
The forest is one of the most symbolized objects in the entire story. It is one
thing that can bring joy, sorrow, freedom, and evil to your life, but most of
all the forest brings you truth. Once you walk into the forest lies no longer
exist. This is show in every example given, that the truth comes out in the
forest no matter what. Maybe that is why these characters go there, because it
is the only place truth exists.