In Chapter 16 of The Scarlet Letter, what is the significance of nature?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The interesting aspect of nature in this important chapter is the way in which sunlight is shown to shun Hester Prynne, as opposed to Pearl, her daughter. Note how this curious phenomenon is described in the text:

The sportive sunlight--feebly sportive, at best, in the predominant pensiveness of teh day and scene--withdrew itself as they came nigh, and left the spots where it had danced the drearier because they had hoped to find them bright.

The role of nature is incredibly important and symbolic in this case. It is ironic that Hester comes to the forest with the intention of revealing truth to Dimmesdale about the identity of Chillingworth. However, the way in which the sunlight appears to be avoiding Hester indicates that this is not the case. If we equate the meaning of sunlight with truth, then this strange behaviour on the part of the sunlight seems to point towards the way in which Hester herself is ignoring or intentionally avoiding the "truth" that she overtly wants to convey to Dimmesdale. If you read on, the next few chapters clearly show that this is the case.

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