Why is the forest so important in The Scarlet Letter? It’s a place of refuge and safety for Hester and Pearl. It is also a place of nature, and thus a symbol of freedom. However, it is also a place where people can do whatever they want, since there are no rules; this creates an atmosphere of lawlessness. For example, Chillingworth murders Dimmesdale’s child in the forest without fear of retribution or punishment. Furthermore, the forest is a place of darkness, which symbolizes the secrets and desires that people have.
The forest is such an important symbol because it is the backdrop for many key events in the novel. For example, when Pearl disappears for three days, Hester believes she has run away to the forest and taken refuge there from the shame she feels from her father’s execution. Similarly, when Dimmesdale (the man secretly in love with Hester) confesses his sin to Chillingworth (Hester’s husband), he confesses that he came to the forest to find Hester while she was pregnant with Pearl, but was overcome with guilt and left before he saw her. Because these two characters are so connected to nature in this way, their paths are linked through the forest as well. Without it, the story would be much less interesting; none of these pivotal moments would have happened without it being such a strong symbolic force in their lives.