English / Moving Towards The Light: The Sun’S Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

Moving Towards The Light: The Sun’S Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

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Autor:  anton  01 April 2011
Tags:  Moving,  Towards,  Symbolism
Words: 709   |   Pages: 3
Views: 707

Every day it comes up in the morning and sets in the evening. If it is present, it is a beautiful day; if it is hidden, then it is a gloomy day. In Nathaniel Hawthorn’s book, The Scarlet Letter, the author uses the presence and absence of sunlight to represent the exposure and concealment of sin respectively.

“it seemed to be her [Hester Prynne’s] first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token [The Scarlet letter]… wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm” (50)

This shows that Pearl is a constant reminder of Hester’s sin. Therefore, if sunlight conceals the sin, then Pearl should always be in the sun. “Pearl set forth at a great pace, and as Hester smiled to perceive, did actually catch the sunshine,” (180) is but one of the examples of Pearl playing in the sun. Pearl is in the sun, because her very existence is due to a sin and there is no way to deny or conceal that. On the other hand, Hester has the Scarlet letter. Is that not a constant reminder of her sin?

Hester Prynne does have the letter to always remind her of her sin, but she overcomes its punishment to a degree through her good works. “many people refused to interpret by its original signification. They said that it meant able.”(158) It is true that she still wears the letter, and it still burns her on many an occasion, but she manages to overcome its burden and thus be come socially acceptable again. The sun, however does not accept her moving away from the sin. For example, after Pearl catches the sunshine in chapter sixteen, when Hester Prynne tries to do the same, “the sunshine vanished.” (180)

During most of the novel the sun does not shine on Hester Prynne, but there are two times it does, and both of them are when her sin is exposed. The first is on the scaffold when the entire town sees her “with the hot, midday sun burning down upon her face.” (61) In this scene, her sin is being exposed to everyone in the town and, though she tries to hide it by being confident, there is no way one could believe that she has not sinned. The second scene is in the woods during chapter 18, “All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the solemn trees.” (199) In this scene, though she is not being shown off to the entire town, she is with Dimmesdale and they are both acknowledging their love for each other and the sin they shared seven years ago.

“Did the sun, which shone so brightly everywhere else, really fall upon him? Or was there, as it rather seemed, a circle of ominous shadow moving along with his deformity whichever way he turned himself?” (172) Roger Chillingworth sins in his quest for revenge arguably more than Hester Prynne or Dimmesdale, but he will never be put on a scaffold for what he does. He simply keeps Dimmesdale from dying. He does not need to do anything more. Even when Hester confronts him about it, he says, “But for my aid his life would have burned away in torments within the first two years after the perpetration of his crime and thine.” He even blames Dimmesdale for making him what he is. The sun, however does shine on him once as he dies. “shrivelled away and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun.” (254) Maybe this last bit of sunshine means that he finally realizes that though Hester and Dimmesdale sinned against him, the ridiculous path of revenge was his own fault.

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