Nathaniel Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter is unquestionably a great piece of American literature. It can be analyzed and interpreted in many different ways because of the plots intensity and characters diversity. Two aspects that stand out above the others in Hawthornes work are nature and society. With the use of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl Hawthorn successfully proves that a relationship with nature, which embodies purity and freedom, can draw ones mind away from the corruption and enslavement of a cruel society.
Hester Prynne the main character of The Scarlet Letter is plagued with the adulteress A throughout the novel. Her Puritan society shuns, scorns, and talks negatively about her behind her back and to her face. Aware of societys lack of acceptance of her sin Hester looks to nature for her own sense of security and freedom. She had wandered without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast and as intricate as the untamed ForrestHer intellect and heart had their home as it were in desert places where it roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods (1440). The forrest for Hester was freedom from the A that society damned upon her. In the forrest she had the ability to take off the A and be her natural self. Chapter 18 states, She undid her clasp that fastened the scarlet letter and taking it from her bosom through it among the withered leaves (1441). After taking off the letter in her place of freedom she was clean of societys evil eye against her. O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom (1442). Hester Prynnes daughter Pearl also proves the burdens of society can be overcome with the beauty of nature.
In The Scarlet Letter Pearl exemplifies the sin of her mother. Known by the entire society as the daughter of the adulteress Hester Prynne , Pearl unsurprisingly seeks escape from the discomfort of society through nature. Throughout the novel Pearl is seen to associate with nature and in fact identify herself better with nature than society. Pearl set forth at a great pace and as Hester smiled to perceive did actually catch the sunshine and stood laughing in the midst of it all brightened by its splendor and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion. The light lingered around the lonely child as if glad of such a playmate (1432). If society was unappreciative to Pearls existence, and if parents told their children to stay away from Pearl, she went unbothered. Pearls greatest friends were the sun, grass, rivers, and trees. Pearls friendship with nature was so strong that she would even partake in conversation with the brook in the forrest. O brook! O foolish and tiresome little brook! Cried Pearl, Why art though so sad? Unlike the little stream she danced and sparkled, and prattled airily along her course (1433). Of course it would be easy for her to cry, sob, and moan about her mothers wrong doings and her wrongful existence but nature aids Pearl in overcoming these thoughts. With the aid of nature Pearl becomes her own individual with her own goals free of societys burdensome judgments.
This interpretation of Hawthornes work is best summed up with the passage, Such was the sympathy of nature-that wild, heathen Nature of the forrest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by higher truth-with the bliss of these two spirits (1442). For Hester and Pearl nature represented freedom from a society that was unaccepting of both of them. Nature however, was the direct opposite. It was always there, always appreciative, always accepting, and constantly full of beauty. As a human society we tend to forget the comforting feelings of looking off a high cliff, swimming in a natural river, and staring at vast grassland. Hawthorne successfully reminds us that with the help of nature it becomes quite simple to escape societys pressures.