Simple Analysis of Diction in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 2 (715 words) Published: August 22, 2012
Passage 1 Analysis

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne often demonstrates the frailty of humans. Nature is often described as beautiful, while the Puritan society and human nature are viewed in a harsh light. Hawthorne illustrates that human nature is flawed and judgmental through use of figurative language, critical diction, and symbolism.

Figurative language plays a vital role in The Scarlet Letter, and this is evident as early as the first chapter. The passage pertaining to a rosebush in particular contains many instances of figurative language, as the rose-bush had been “kept alive in history” and may have existed because Ann Hutchinson entered the prison door. Hawthorne directly tells the reader that he wants the rosebush to represent “some sweet moral blossom… [to] relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.” The prison door in the town is described as an “ugly edifice” which can further mean that sin is viewed as ugly, but the rose bush being in close proximity to the prison represents forgiveness for the sins the imprisoned have committed. Being that the flowers on the bush represent a moral blossom, this may indicate that sinners feel guilt for what they have done.

Hawthorne’s strong, negative choice of diction conveys an equally pessimistic tone when it comes to Puritan society. “A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray… was assembled in front of a large wooden edifice, the door of which… was studded with iron spikes.” This sentence portrays Puritan society as dull and somber because of words such as sad, gray, and studded with iron spikes. Contrastingly, the diction Hawthorne chose to use with nature is more inviting. Words used for nature include “virgin” (describing the soil), “delicate gems”, “stern”, and “sweet”. These show the reader that Hawthorne clearly favors nature’s characteristics over those of the human race. Diction also plays a significant role when introducing our main character,...
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