The Settings of the Scarlet Letter
She is having flashbacks to earlier times and feeling guilty for what she had done. The scaffold is a platform used for redemption and a symbol of the harsh Puritan code. Hester’s punishment for her sin of adultery is to wear the letter A on the outside of her dress and stand on the scaffold in front of the whole town to see her and her baby. By using the scaffold as a place where Hester is sentenced to stand for punishment and a place for repentance the author symbolizes the importance of this setting. The forest is a representation of how deception and secrecy can be destructive. The forest is a symbol of darkness and despair where evil is.
In Puritan times, the forest is evil and nothing good can come from it. The forest is a sense of freedom that the people could not find in the town. The strict codes of the Puritans is not allowing the people to do what they want, so instead of breaking the law in public they go to the forest and be free from all laws. The forest is a place where the people do as they pleased. Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest and devise a plan to escape the town and move to England. This is an important event in this setting because it would mean that Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl could live a normal happy life in England away from their sin.
This means that Dimmesdale would not confess his sin, and confessing his sin is the only thing that can save him. Another important symbol in the forest is the brook. The brook that runs through the forest is a symbol for many things. The brook represents a wall. Pearl exclaims that she will not cross the brook because Hester is not wearing her letter. Pearl is not recognizing her mother without the letter. This makes Pearl not cross the brook. As soon as Hester puts the letter back on, Pearl crosses the brook. To Dimmesdale the brook becomes a boundary between two worlds, a world of peace and freedom and a world of lies and guilt.
Across the brook lies freedom from his sin. The brook represents Pearl. The brook has an unknown source, and Pearl also has an unknown source. This means that most people do not know where the brook or Pearl came from. Another similarity between the two is that the brook travels through a dark and often evil forest, yet it never stops traveling. This is true for Pearl also for throughout her whole life she has been unwillingly placed into the evil and sorrow that her mother deals with and just as the brook, she keeps on going. The prison is a symbol of isolation and alienation.
The prison is a representation of a punishment for sin. The Puritans have a strict code and they do not allow adultery to be unpunished. This causes them to put Hester in prison and also they make her wear the scarlet letter. The prison is a foreshadowing about the life that Hester and the others involved with this sin will live even after she leaves the prison. While Hester lives in the prison of alienation, Dimmesdale lives in the prison of his secret sin, and Chillingworth imprisons himself by his revenge. The one good thing about the prison is the rose bush, which is growing across from the prison.
This rose bush represents nature and all its beauty. It shows that nature even in dark and sad times can still shine and continue to provide hope to those who need it. The rose bush also in a way represents Hester in that she came from a dark place, yet everyone is admiring her beauty instead of thinking about the sin she is now representing. The final important setting in The Scarlet Letter is Hester’s cottage. The cottage represents that the recognition of our own weakness may make us ultimately stronger and more sympathetic to the weakness of others.
Hester is now isolating herself from the Puritan society because of her sin. She even has a chance to leave Boston and escape her sin, but she is either drawn to the fact that a great event in her life had happened here or that her secret lover still lived in Boston. The cottage is also an escape from the harsh town’s people that continue to judge her. Since she is living away from the Puritan society, she is living in peace. She also begins to gain strength because of her sin. This leads to Hester changing her weakness of adultery to the strength of being able to help out others.
All of these settings represent different things. The scaffold shows that secret sins will be found out in the end, either in life or death. The forest shows that there is much temptation in the world and there is always a place where it seems safe to preform those sins and never get caught. The prison shows that sin will be found out and a punishment will be dealt. Finally, the cottage shows that everyone needs a place to get away from society to think about the sins that have be committed.