Before their devastating demise, JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, were reportedly beset with disagreements over their future as a married couple. According to Vanity Fair , their woes had even come to a fever pitch just two days before their fateful crash, with John John telling a friend that the two had come to a major impasse over the decision of whether or not to have children together. JFK Jr. reportedly confessed that he'd come to believe that without a major change, he and Carolyn might have been headed for divorce. The two reportedly also endured accusations of infidelity, drug use, and potentially even domestic violence during the course of their marriage, which was regarded by unknowing outsiders to appear like a fairy tale union.
Even prior to his daughter’s death, however, Art Linkletter was vitally concerned with what he saw as the eroding state of family values, and he was actively engaged in lecturing across country on the chosen topic of “Permissiveness in this Society.” (Indeed, he’d been in Colorado to deliver such a talk at the time of Diane’s death.) He had also just released a record called “A Letter to a Teenager” (also known as “We Love You; Call Collect”). The flip side contained a rebuttal performed by Diane, which was called “Dear Mom and Dad.” (Both had been recorded a year or two earlier. The record went on to win “Best Spoken Word Recording” 1969 Grammy honors.)
Both Mistress Hibbins’s late-night activities and Hester’s and Pearl’s soul-searching are set in the forest, a place that surrounds and yet stands in opposition to the town. The woods are wild and natural, unbound by any man-made rules or codes. Additionally, the forest is a place of privacy and intimacy, which contrasts markedly to the public spaces of the town. For these reasons, it is appropriate that Hester chooses to meet Dimmesdale in the woods, through which he will pass in transition between two human extremes—the repressed, codified Puritan town and the comparatively “wild” and “natural” Indian settlement. As an intermediary between the two, the forest serves as a space between repression and chaos, between condemnation and total liberty. It should provide a balance that is ideal for a reasoned exchange between the former lovers. Nature itself, however, seems to be signaling that what is to take place will not be a simple illumination of truth. The sunlight seems to be avoiding Hester deliberately as she and Pearl walk through the forest. If, as it frequently does, light symbolizes truth, then this strange natural phenomenon appears to be suggesting that Hester is avoiding, or will not find, the “truth” that she seeks to convey to Dimmesdale. Indeed, the next chapters will show this to be the case.