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In chapter 18, How does Hawthorne reinforce his idea that nature is sympathetic with...

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dancer4 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 22, 2010 at 11:12 AM via web

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In chapter 18, How does Hawthorne reinforce his idea that nature is sympathetic with the union of Hester and Dimmesdale?

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 23, 2010 at 11:40 AM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter XVIII of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester and the Reverend Dimmesdale meet in the forest.  There, in the Romantic style, Nature sympathizes with the feelings of Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale.  For instance, in the beginning of the chapter, as Dimmesdale looks into the face of Hester, "hope and joy shone out." As Dimmedale makes the decision to leave the colony, Dimmesdale tells Hester,

I seem to have flung myself--sick, sin-stained, and sorrow-blackened--down upon these forest-leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to florify Him that hath been merciful!  This is already the better life!  Why did we not find it sooner?

Then, when Hester removes her cap, and takes down her hair, Nature is again in sympathy with her:

There played around her mouth, and beamed out of her eyes, a radiant and tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very heart of womanhood....And, as if the gloom of the earth and sky had been but the effluence of these two mortal hearts, it vanished with their sorrow.  All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, tranmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the grey trunks of the solemn trees.

That which was in the dark now comes out of the shadow into brightness.  The little brook takes a course of "merry gleam" into the wood's "heart of mystery, a mystery of joy."  Hawthorne further writes,

Such was the sympathy of Nature--that wild, heathen Nature of the forest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by higher truth--with the bliss of these two spirits!

Standing in the sunshine, little Pearl is called "a bright-apparelled vision in a sunbeam."  Likewise, Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale emerge as hopeful and alive in the forest where Nature sympathizes and sunshine chases away the shadows from their hearts and unburdens the grey lives of the two lovers.

 

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