In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid Puritan society in which one is unable to divulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets. Every human being needs the opportunity to express how he or she truly feels, otherwise the emotions are bottled up until they become volatile. Unfortunately, Puritan society did not permit this kind of expression, thus characters had to seek alternate means 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 is precisely the escape route from strict mandates of law and religion, to a refuge where men, as well as women, can open up and be themselves. It is here that Dimmesdale openly acknowledges Hester and his eternal love for her. It is also here that Hester can do the same for Dimmesdale.

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Finally, it is here that the two of them can openly engage in conversation without being preoccupied with the constraints that Puritan society places on them. The forest itself is the very embodiment of freedom. Nobody watches in the woods to report misbehavior, but it is here that people may do as they wish.

To independent spirits such as Hester Prynne’s, the wilderness gesture 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 before your time. And no wonder, hemmed in, as you are, on every side by prohibitions. Why, you..

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