Imagery and Irony in The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter, uses a variety of literary techniques in order to produce energy and invoke the interest of the reader. He creates the mood and the climax of the novel by using the techniques of imagery and irony. Yet, it is his use of symbolism that truly carries the novel.
An abundance of symbolism appears in many different forms, adding interest to the novel. For instance, Hawthorne uses his characters, such as Pearl, as symbols; “It was the scarlet letter in another form, the scarlet letter endowed with life.” (Ch. VII pg. 103) Pearl is a symbol of the sin of Hester and Dimmesdale. She serves as a constant punishment and living conscience. In addition, Hawthorne uses natural occurrences such as light and darkness as symbols by having Dimmesdale stand upon the scaffold only at night. Darkness, therefore, is a symbol of the concealment of sin, and light becomes a symbol of truth and acceptance of guilt. The use of light and dark occurs many times throughout the novel to place emphasis on the underlying morals. Furthermore, Hawthorne uses everyday objects, such as the brook in the forest, to serve as a symbol. Pearl refused to cross the brook and join her mother on the other side, making the brook a symbol of the boundary between the two worlds of truth and deception. This natural setting is one of the most striking in the novel. By using symbolism in these three forms (characters, natural occurrence, and simple objects) Hawthorne is able to introduce numerous symbols, which reveal hidden morals.
Hawthorne uses four types of imagery; light/darkness, biblical, color, and living/dying, in order to bring the story to life in the mind of the reader. For instance, “Pearl set forth at a great pace…did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendor, and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion.” (Ch. XVI pg. 176) While standing in the midst of the light, Pearl appears to have a glow about her that draws the readers’ attention to her childhood innocence. Pearl has committed no sin, and, as depicted in this passage, still possesses her innocence. In addition, “They averred that the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth...but was redhot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the nighttime.” (Ch. V pg.91) This example of imagery, brings to life the scarlet letter, and describes how it burned upon Hester’s chest. Hester’s guilt is personified so that it not...