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Nathaniel Hawthorne Literary Analysis Use Of Visual Imagery To Develope Characters And Story

1169 words - 5 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter is well loved as containing America’s first real heroine. Through out The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne’s characters experience a lot of powerful emotions and undergo many important changes. Hawthorne uses many literary tools to help demonstrate these developments. Hawthorne’s usage of visual imagery in particular has a powerful effect on character development. Several of the most important characters’ roles in The Scarlet Letter, like those of Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale’s, were made more effective in developing their characters and ultimately more useful to the themes presented by the novel.
Hester’s development through out the plot is very evident in Hawthorne’s vivid descriptions. Being the protagonist of the story, her character’s development is vital to the entire story. The description of Hester’s appearance and countenance in the first scaffold scene is the reader’s first impression of her character.
“She took the baby on her arm, and with a…haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed…besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion…characterized by a certain state and dignity…those who had before known her and expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished and even startled to perceive how her beauty shone out…” (Hawthorne 51)This demonstrates a very vivid usage of imagery to describe Hester’s appearance, and though it describes how she appears it gives insight into the personality of her character. We can infer from this that Hester though standing the scaffold as punishment, she appears steadfast, composed and even dignified in the face of her shame. When Arthur Dimmesdale is approached in the woods by Hester, this imagery describes what he first notices. “He indistinctly beheld a form…clad in garments so somber, and so little relieved from the gray twilight…that he knew not whether it were a woman or a shadow.” (Hawthorne 185) Hawthorne transforms Hester in this description into a shadowy and spectre-like figure. The purpose for the use of this “sombre” description for Hester is in the context of her emotion and conflict. She has come to Dimmesdale in a very despairing mood to inform him of the identity of his “leech” and this feeling is manifested in her shadowy appearance. This imagery also maintains a certain tone and adds to Hester’s personal plight. “…With at once a shadow and a light in its abundance…imparting the charm of softness to her features. There played around her mouth and beamed out of her eyes a radiant and tender smile…her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back…” This is perhaps one of the most significant uses of visual imagery used by Hawthorne in the novel. Hester has finally removed the scarlet letter A from her garb and the immense relief that she feels in her mind is shown emanating physically from her. The sun shine floods in upon them and seems to...

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