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Light Vs. Dark Imagery- The Scarlet Letter

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Autor:   •  June 19, 2011  •  828 Words (4 Pages)  •  492 Views

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is one of the most analyzed and most discussed literary works in American literature. Hawthorne's ambiguity and strong use of symbols have made this novel very complex and detailed. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many symbols to give insight into characters and promote his views on society. The scaffold scenes in The Scarlet Letter tell the reader exactly what is to come, and the presence of light in those scenes gives the reader insight into the characters.

The scaffold scenes establish a pattern of what is to come in the novel through a common tie prevalent in the three different scaffold scenes. The tie is that of creation and release. In the first scaffold scene, Hester releases not only her guilt about her crime, but, she also releases Pearl to the society and creates in Pearl the need for strength and determination that she will need to overcome the legacy of her creation. In this scene she also creates the need in Dimmesdale to absolve himself of his guilt. The second scaffold scene is the opportunity for Dimmesdale to attempt to release his guilt from the first scaffold. However, Pearl creates a need in Dimmesdale to repent in front of the town. During the third scaffold scene, Dimmesdale is able to release his guilt about his crime and his lack of strength. He is also able to complete his obligation to accept the hands of Pearl and Hester on the platform from the second scaffold scene. Through his confession, he creates a sense of reality for the entire town. It can be clearly seen that what is created in the first scaffold is released in the second scaffold; while, the things created in the second scaffold are finally released in the third and final scaffold.

There is another complexity to the scaffold scenes in the presence, or lack there of, of lighting. The first scaffold scene is in the sunlight. The sunlight in this novel is a symbol of disguise. In the sunlight of the first scaffold, Hester is shown as strong and determined. She gives the appearance that the letter does not bother her. However, later in the novel we learn her true feelings as to the letter:

The effect of the symbol--or, rather, of the position in respect to society that was indicated by it--on the mind of Hester Prynne herself was powerful and peculiar. All the light and foliage of her character had been withered up by this red-hot brand, and had long ago fallen away...

The darkness in this book is a symbol of reality and truth. The second scaffold scene is a perfect example of this symbol. In the first and third scaffold scenes,

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