Plant Imagery Throughout the Scarlet Letter

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Honors American Lit. B
The Scarlet Letter Pathway Paper – 694 wordsApril 23, 2013

Throughout The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne uses vegetation imagery in correlation with his ideas about sinful nature and god. When describing the prison in the very beginning of the novel, Hawthorne writes, “a grass-plot, much overgrown with… such unsightly vegetation, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison” (45-46). Hawthorne uses the imagery of a black flower to depict the sinful nature of humans as it was inevitable that even in this new flourishing society the people there saw the need to build a prison. This vivid image also relates to the Puritan’s harsh view on sin in the community. Throughout the novel Hawthorne frequently criticizes the Puritan society, this being another example, “but the proprietor appeared already to have relinquished, as hopeless, the effort to perpetuate on this side of the Atlantic, in a hard soil and amid the close struggle for subsistence, the native English taste for ornamental gardening” (97). The description of the Governor’s ornamental garden shows the garden failing, as if the person caring for it had given up and realized that it was impossible to have the ornamental garden in Boston the way it was in England. This parallels Hawthorne’s beliefs about Puritan society in that their abstruse beliefs would not sustain in the new world they were creating, for god is depicted through nature demonstrating how Hawthorne feels god is looking down on the materialistic and frivolous ways of the Puritans. Later in the novel Chillingworth says, “wherefore not, since all the powers of nature call so earnestly for the confession of sin, that these black weeds have sprung up out of a buried heart, to make manifest an unspoken crime?” (119). Nature is being associated with god in this passage therefore Hawthorne is saying that god calls for...
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