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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

It straggled onward into the mystery of the primevil forest. This hemmed it in so narrowly, and stood so black and dense on either side, and imposed such imperfect glimpses of the sky above, that, to Hester’s mind, it imaged not amiss the moral wilderness in which she had so long been wandering. (16.3)

Descriptions of the forest that the European settlers encountered are pretty intense. It's hard to imagine now, but at one time almost all of the Eastern United States was covered with forest, including 200-foot tall pines—which were quickly turned into masts for the English navy. By the 18th century, most of these forests we gone. In fact, the land that Hawthorne knew might have been even more deforested than it is today, since a lot of forest land has been replanted. This "primeval forest" is a place where people can shed some of those pesky trappings of civilization.

Quote #8

All these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that, with its never-ceasing loquacity, it should whisper tales out of the heart of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed, or mirror its revelations on the smooth surface of the pool. (16.23)

The woods are alive with the sound of music—or, at least of secret. Here, everything in the forest seems to be talking, listening, and taking note of Hester and Dimmesdale's conversation. Are these illicit conversations some of the secrets that the forest keeps?

Quote #9

Pearl resembled the brook, inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a wellspring as mysterious, and had flown through scenes shadowed as heavily with gloom. But, unlike the little stream, she danced and sparkled and prattled airily along her course. (16.25)

Okay, we get it: Pearl has a close connection to the natural world. Is that because she grew up on the edge of the forest? Or is she actually a little elf-child?

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