Analytical Essay on the Scarlet Letter

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In his book, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells of a story where a young woman has had an adulterous relationship with a respected priest in a Puritan community. Typical of Hawthorne's writings is the use of imagery and symbolism. In Chapter 12, The Minister's Vigil, there are several uses of imagery when Dimmesdale, the priest, is battling with confessing his sin, which has plagued him for seven years. Three evident techniques used to personify symbolism in this chapter are the use of darkness versus light, the use of inner guilt versus confession, and lastly the use of colors (black versus white).

Hawthorne's use of darkness versus light is vivid throughout the entire book. However, there are two very important passages in chapter twelve that should be mentioned. The first one is when Hawthorne is talking about Dimmesdale: "Without any effort of his will, or power to restrain himself, he shrieked aloud; an outcry that went pealing through the night, and was beaten back from one house to another reverberated from the hills in the background; as if a company of devils, detecting so much misery and terror in it, had made a plaything of the sound, and were bandying it to and fro" (Page 130). In this scene the event is taking place through the middle of the night when darkness and sin (Satan) lurk about. It is even personified when Hawthorne mentions the scream and the devils making a plaything of the sound. Darkness has taken a toll on Dimmesdale's heart. The second use of darkness in chapter twelve is where Governor Winthrop finds Arthur Dimmesdale's glove on the scaffold. The Sexton says, "Satan dropped it there I take it, intending a scurrilous jest against your reverence. But, indeed, he was blind and foolish, as he ever and always is. A pure hand needs no glove to cover it" (Page 138). In response to the sexton Dimmesdale said, " ‘Thank you, my good friend, at this point he was startled at heart; for, so confused was his rememberance, that he had almost brought himself to look at the events of the past night as visionary. ‘Yes, it seems to be my glove indeed'"(Pg 138)! The use of darkness and light is being portrayed and also the use of black versus white. The darkness is represented in Satan and also the darkness of the glove, which shows a covering of something. In this case it is a covering of Dimmesdale's sin. The light is represented in the Sexton telling Dimmesdale that he has a pure hand, which needs no glove to cover it. In reality the sin is being covered already, and Dimmesdale tries to make this known by telling the sexton that it is indeed his glove. There are various uses of darkness used in this chapter. For example: "Not but the meteor may have shown itself at that point, burning duskily through a veil of cloud; but with no shape as his guilt might have seen another symbol in it"(Page 136). The darkness is represented in the thickness of the cloud. Dimmesdale, even though he is hiding his sin inside where no one can see it, knows it's there and he thinks that others should see it more clearly. He does not realize however, that the Puritan society can only see what is on the outside and not what is on the inside a direct contradiction to the fundamentals of belief. Another technique used by Hawthorne is the contrast of inner guilt versus confession, and its effects. "No eye could see him, save that ever-wakeful one which had seen him in his closet, wielding the bloody scourge"(Page 129), and "the shriek had perhaps sounded with a far greater power, to his own startled ears, than it actually possessed"(Page 130). In this paragraph, Hawthorne shows how Dimmesdale is being tortured with his guilt so much so that he can no longer hold it in. He does the only thing he can, he lets out a shriek in the night in hopes that people will come forward to witness, for the first time, his sin. Dimmesdale still has not come to the reality that he is still in darkness and is not...
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