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Word Count: 2,327
OTHER ELEMENTS SETTING There are two ways to talk about setting in The Scarlet Letter One way is to look at the meaning or emotional overtones of specific places A second and broader way is to examine the whole Puritan world in which Hawthorne has set his novel Not just the time and place Boston in the 1640s but the values and beliefs that define Puritan society THE MARKET-PLACE AND THE FOREST Far and away the most important scenes in The Scarlet Letter take place in two locations the market-place and the forest These are presented to us as very different places reflecting very different human aspirations The market-place is public It lies at the very heart of the tiny enclave of civilization the Puritans have managed to carve out of the vast untouched continent The market-place contains both the church and the scaffold- institutions of law and religion It is where criminals like Hester are punished where penitents like Dimmesdale confess and where men put on the faces they wear for the world The forest on the other hand is dark and secret It is where people come to let loose and be themselves The forest track leads away from the settlement out into the wilderness where all signs of civilization vanish The forest track is precisely the escape route from the dictates of law and religion to the promised land to the west where men can breathe free The market-place and the forest are symbols of the choice that confronts the major characters in the novel The choice is not as simple as it seems For all its restraints the market-place is safer and warmer than the forest And you cant get into so much trouble there In the heart of the settlement there is the comfort of values that are shared of laws that are laid down and respected Above all
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