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The Use of Contrasting Places in 'the Scarlet Letter'

  • Submitted by: caitimhoff
  • on January 7, 2013
  • Category: English
  • Length: 767 words

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Below is a free excerpt of "The Use of Contrasting Places in 'the Scarlet Letter'" from Anti Essays, your source for free research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Many authors are known to use contrasting places to represent opposing ideas that are essential to the meaning of the work. One such author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, writes of a small Puritan town and a very opposite forest in his novel, The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne uses these places to emphasize the meaning of the work, which is the idea that people need isolation from, as well as connection with, other people. By contrasting the symbolism, inhabitants, and locations of each area, Hawthorne makes prominent to readers the central essence of his story. He does this mainly by making each place represent a different idea.
The story takes place in the small Puritan town of Boston in the mid-1600’s. In this time, the town was surrounded by a large forest, which isolated the town from outsiders. The town was known as a place of human authority and social law, where the people were subject to Puritan laws and public punishment for the violation of said laws. It symbolized human beliefs, human consequences and conformity. The forest, on the other hand, was a place of natural rather than human authority and law. The forest symbolized individuality – the people could escape Puritan society and rules. When Hester and Dimmesdale met in the forest, it “revealed to each heart its history and experience,” (171; ch 17) bringing them back to themselves and opening up their inner love. The differences between the two places show the necessity of social order and interaction, while still maintaining the ability to remain true to oneself and one’s beliefs, which can be hard while surrounded by conformist people.
The inhabitants of the town included many people, such as the ministers, the governor, the clergymen and the commoners themselves. They were all taught the same beliefs – the same Puritan beliefs, – and therefore were harsh and unanimous in their punishment of Hester Prynne. While she stood on the scaffold, in full view of the townspeople, “cold was the sympathy that a...

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