In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne’s first appearance in the novel is described in a way that characterizes her with an individualistic appearance and the refusal to be shamed by society. She is the physical manifestation of the rebellion against traditional ways and values. Hawthorne explains this with the use of metaphor and imagery.
Hawthorne uses metaphors to convey the rebellious nature of Hester Prynne’s presence outside of the prison. Hawthorne uses the term “black shadow” to describe the appearing of the town-beadle from the prison. Calling the town-beadle a black shadow and then stating that Hester repelled him shows Hester releasing herself from under the dark shadow which could represent the darkness of puritan laws which the town-beadle symbolizes. Hawthorne states that the pedestrians were shocked by the “halo” Prynne’s beauty seemed to create at a time when she should have been demonized and ashamed. Prynne’s ability to portray beauty and an angel-like quality such as a halo is an example of her standing as an individual who will not be made to feel shamed or less than those around her. The same was shown in the embroidery of Hester’s scarlet letter. The scarlet letter was supposed to be a symbol of Hester’s sin and consequently be the mark that brought her shame. However, in the embroidery of the scarlet letter, Hester removed “herself from ordinary relations with humanity, [enclosing] herself in a sphere”. With such embroidery, Hester plummeted herself into a sphere all her own, which could not be shamed due to its undeniable beauty and elegance.
Hawthorne’s use of imagery allows the reader to see the beauty in Hester Prynne and feel the strength and individuality in her presence. In description of Hester appearing from the prison, Hawthorne states that she “repelled [the town-beadle], by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character”. This wording allows the reader to imagine Hester walking out of...
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