Uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable are some of the words people typically use to describe a wilderness, but in literary terms wilderness can have quiete a different meaning. It can be associated with words such as transformation, self discovery, and growth. The Bible helped create the idea behind this belief in stories it contains. The most prevalent story being the 40 days Jesus lived in the dessert. Jesus undergoes temptation from Satan with the promise to rule the world with untold riches; however, he overcomes this through self will, and this is one of the defining moments in his life. He prays for the strength the carry on with his mission to save humanity from eternal suffering. It is in the wilderness were Jesus finds the internal strength to reject all temptation and honor the mission he was sent to fulfill. This motif has been taken and transformed into many literary works from Romanticism, to Realism, and onto Modernism.
- The Scarlet Letter: Hester after her disgrace goes to live in a house on the edge of town, which can be considered her own personal wilderness away from society. Here she is given the time and space to grow into her own confidence to strengthen her resolve to ignore the people who criticized her, as they were narrow minded Puritans, and be comfortable in the person she is.
- The Awakening: Edna on her vacation on the island (a version of wilderness away from normal society) comes to the self discovery that she does not love her husband and no longer wishes to be tied down to him; she tells Madame Ratignolle that “”I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me” (Chap 16). The wilderness of the island allowed her the time to come to this realization that she wanted to be free.
- The Sun Also Rises: Jake leaves San Sebastian (his wilderness as it is his place away from everyone) after receiving a telegram from Brett. He comes to the self realization that Brett only ever needs him when everyone else leaves, and she will never fully love him. His being in the wilderness helped him come to this realization. When he was in the middle of things he always held out hope that Brett would come to realize he was the one, but once he was able to take time away he was able to process that this was just a fantasy for him.