The Scarlet Letter Symbolism In The Forest

The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism In The Forest Essay, Research Paper

The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism in the Forest

“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.


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