The Role Of Color In The Scarlet Letter

1005 words - 4 pages

Throughout history, colors have been used to symbolize different meanings based on associations with culture, history, politics, and religion. In The Scarlet Letter, the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism through colors such as red, black and white in the form of sunlight, to represent emotions and ideologies of Hester and the people around her.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the color red significantly throughout The Scarlet Letter to show its importance of symbolism in the emotions of sin and passion that it represents. The first example in The Scarlet Letter is the red rose that is growing by the prison door (2), which represents Hester’s pride and passion. This rose is growing in a place that is not very fitting, which is identical to Hester’s passion in that she does not fit into the Puritan society. Another example of how red is used to symbolize Hester’s passion occurs later when there is sunlight passing through a red window in the governor’s house, which in turn spreads red light throughout the room. This represents Hester’s passion as it spreads throughout the Puritan society. Also in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses the color red to symbolize Hester’s sin, which is continually being shown by the scarlet letter “A”. Hester’s sin through the scarlet letter is something that she has to continually deal with and that she can’t escape. Hester’s daughter Pearl, who is the product of Hester’s sin, is often seen to be dressed in red clothes and is also called names like “ Ruby”, “Red Rose”, and “Coral” by her mother (61). The symbolism of the color red in The Scarlet Letter is portrayed as the most important of all, as it is what the entire novel is based upon through the scarlet letter that Hester is forced to wear.
Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses the color black, as well as darkness, to symbolize evil and secrets that are kept inside. The first occurrence that
Hawthorne adds to The Scarlet Letter is when he explains the prison as “the black flower of civilized society” (2). By this Hawthorne means that the prison is a place of evil and a place that conceals the truth, in the event that Hester is being held there with the truth about her adulterous act. Hawthorne also describes Pearl’s eyes as having “another face, in the small black mirror”, instead of holding her mother’s “own miniature portrait” (48). This explains that Pearl’s eyes were empty and filled with sin as she came into life as a result of Hester’s scarlet letter. Another example of how Hawthorne uses the color black, as symbolism, is when Chillingworth states: “Even in the graveyard here at hand, they are new to me. I found them growing on a grave, which bore no tombstone, nor other memorial of the dead man, save these ugly remembrance. They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and with he had done better to confess during...

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