Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Man and the Natural World

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Man and the Natural World

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

In The Scarlet Letter, all the good stuff goes down in the woods. Secret trysts? Head to the wood. Major confessions? Head to the wood. Need to gather some medicine that actually works? Yep, head to the woods. Nature is almost like a character, personified as listening, commenting on, and interacting with the other characters. At the same time, it can be menacing. The Puritan community is like an island surrounded by nature, bordered on one side by a huge expanse of woods, home to Native Americans (the Wampanoag tribes); and on the other the big blue Atlantic Ocean.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What is Pearl's relationship to nature and to the natural world? Does she seem to have a closer relationship to it? Why does Mistress Hibbins, the witch, always talk about having parties in the woods?
  2. What do the woods and the ocean represent in the world of The Scarlet Letter? Are they different types of nature, or is nature all kind of the same?
  3. What role does the wild rosebush play in this story?

Chew on This

In this story, nature is violent and deadly. Even if humans can survive in it, they have to be careful.

Nature represents everything the Puritan society tries to suppress or outlaw.

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