American Literature Essay 2
20 July 2016
Light v dark in The Scarlet letter
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlett Letter, the nature of evil is a prevalent theme that is depicted throughout the novel. Hawthorne is considered by many to be one of the most significant writers during the romantic period of American literature. Many of his writings countered the ideas of Transcendentalism, which was a popular belief during his time. Trancendentalism is described as “an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around 1836 in reaction to rationalism . . . it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living”(). In this novel, there are three main characters that commit evil and sinful acts, but each with differing degrees of sin-fullness. The Puritan community identifies the three sinners as, Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and doctor, Roger Chillingworth. Hawthorne uses the symbols of light and darkness to represent the difference between good and evil within his novel.
Throughout the novel, Hawthorne uses light and sunshine to portray goodness amongst the characters. Early in the novel, Pearl notices that sunlight strays away from Hester: “Mother, said little Pearl, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom” (Hawthorne 166). This shows that the scarlet letter and the sin, wanted to stay in the darkness, and that the light did not want touch Hester’s sinful body. Even young Pearl is able to recognize the evilness associated with the scarlet letter and how the light shy’s away from it due to its absence of good. In a scen...
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...ality and truth. The second scaffold scene is a perfect example of this symbol. In the first and third scaffold scenes, Dimmesdale gives the appearance of a devout holy man who, although not physically strong, is emotionally pure. In the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale 's inability to confront the people that trust him, his absence of strength, and inability to admit to his guilt are clearly shown. This is the real Arthur Dimmesdale. Also, Hawthorne cleverly adds lighting and darkness to give insight into each character. It is interesting how this seems to diverge from the contemporary stereotypes of light and darkness. Contemporary stereotypes would suggest that truth is light and darkness is deceit. These contemporary stereotypes are illustrated with death in horror movies appearing only at night and with angels and gods in books appearing in a burst of light.
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