The Scarlet Letter Symbols Displaying Character Emotions

Essay add: 11-05-2016, 15:45   /   Views: 141
The Scarlet Letter - Symbols Displaying Character Emotions

Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter uses many different types of symbols throughout his book to portray the feelings and emotions of the characters. Hester, the main character of the book, is filled with many feelings, including pride and acceptance, surrounding her sin of adultery. Many of the people around Hester also reflect similar emotions and feelings and are reflected by the author through the use of colors. Nathanial Hawthorne employs many symbols throughout his book, as he uses the colors red, black, and white to represent the emotions of Hester and those around her.

The most frequently used color symbol in The Scarlet Letter is red. Red most noticeably represents the sin committed by Hester, as shown by the scarlet “A” she is forced to wear on her bosom. The scarlet letter, like her sin, is something that she will never be able to forget and is something she can never escape from. The color red is also used to represent the result of the sin, as Pearl is usually dressed in red clothing. Pearl is called a wide variety of names pertaining to the color red in the book such as “Ruby”, “Coral”, “Red Rose”, and “a little bird of scarlet plumage.” Red is also used by Hawthorne to represent the passion and sensuality of the other characters in the book. Red is used to represent the sin further with the red “A” formed from meteors and the “A” appearing on Dimmesdale’s chest. The wild red rose bush that formed outside of the prison where Hester was being held represented Hester’s place in a Puritan society that would no longer accept her for who she was. Hawthorne states that “This rosebush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history…It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom that may be found along the track.” The meaning to this quote shows how powerful colors can be to show the true emotions of the characters and the setting around them.

Another frequently used color used by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter is black. Black is mainly used to represent the darkness and evil that is living throughout this book. Very early in the book, Hawthorne refers to the prison as the “black flower of civilized society,” meaning it as a place representing evil and darkness. Darkness is occasionally turned to light within the book, suggesting that darkness represents a place of hiding, where true emotions are not shown and characters hide from their problems. Another example of the use of the color black in the book is when Pearl’s eyes are referred to as “small black mirrors,” meaning they are empty and filled with evilness and sin. The Puritan’s refer to Satan and evil beings as the “Black Man” in the forest, as he represents darkness and all that is evil about society. Black is used as a tool to show the most evil part of a person or object, as it can only be countered by the color of white.

White is used by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter to represent light and change. White is the color employed by Hawthorne to oppose black and darkness as a method of self-containment. Pearl, who has never committed a sin herself, is almost always portrayed with a light shining upon her, symbolizing the good, her existence, coming out of the bad, her conception through adultery. Hester, who is looked down upon by the entire town throughout the book, removed her letter and faced her sin and pride, causing the sunlight to shine upon her for the very first time. “All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood onto the obscure forest…” shows the way that coming out of the darkness of hiding her emotions, let loose the powerful force of sunshine, as Hester was able to relieve her feelings of guilt and sorrow, which she had carried for such a long time. White was the symbol that offset all of the negative effects of the story, and showed the characters for what they truly were.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter uses many forms to display the emotions and feelings of the characters, especially through the colors of red, black, and white. Red was used to display the sin committed by Hester, as well as representing the passion and sensuality of the characters, relating to the scarlet letter. Black was used as a symbol of darkness and evil, as all of the negative events within the book were described using the color of black. White was used to counter the use of black, as it symbolized the opposition to darkness and the purity of many of the characters true feelings. The color symbols used in The Scarlet Letter help the reader to transform various themes and ideas to be easily recognized to make the book get to the heart of the real human feelings and emotions.

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