Pillars Of Metaphorical Ambiguity In The Scarlet Letter

1439 words - 6 pages

Pillars of Metaphorical Ambiguity in The Scarlet Letter

Among the multiplicity of arcane elements hidden beneath the words in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", none is so apparent, yet strikingly subtle to the reader's perception and consumption of characterization than the allegorical play on words within the names of the characters.  Both the protagonist and her rival within the plot are blessed with conveniently appropriate, fitting names.  The four pillars supporting this novel are all cloaked with foreshadowing names, which silently clue the reader into what traits and significance the character holds as the story unfolds.  These pillars that solidify the novel are Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Pearl. 

            The first, possibly strongest column supporting the evolution of themes in the novel is Hester Prynne.  Hester is the young woman who is abandoned by her older, disfigured husband, and falls in love with a young, passionately God-fearing man who subsequently conceives a child, thus revealing her "adultery" and is punished by the Puritan society that he represents.  She is instructed to wear a red letter, hence the title of the book.  Through her punishment, she acquires and applies several motifs that the novel boasts, the most powerful one being represented perpetually throughout the story,  sin.  Apparently, in efforts to stress her significance and origin of decisions in the story, Hawthorne skillfully gave this woman whom the story revolves around the name of Hester Prynne, comfortably in sync with the word she is faced with constantly: sin.  Her last name, rhyming with the word is no mistake, and though subtle in its existence, is ingenious in its implication, and an almost unconscious impression is made upon the reader.

            Perhaps the darkest individual represented among the cast of men and women living in Boston is the man who sent his young wife to America and failed to rendezvous with her, Roger Chillingworth.  Unmistakably the shallowest example of metaphorical naming, Hawthorne wished to establish Chillingworth's inability to thaw a frozen heart with an equally cold sense of judgment and compassion.  Possibly, once, many years ago, before he was captured by savages and held captive, before his wife committed adultery against him, Roger Chillingworth might once have been a decent soul. Whatever has transpired throughout the years between Hester's departure of England and his arrival to her jail cell the eve of her sentencing, any flame of human empathy had been extinguished, leaving a void of frigid noncomplacency.  Despite his passive-aggressive tactics to inflict vengeance upon the father of his wife's illegitimate child, Chillingworth easily reveals the evil pumping through his veins in his statements to Hester.  After receiving a firm lecture and sermon upon her atrocities committed against the Lord and her community, Hester was sent to the prison with her daughter...

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