Moving Towards the Light: the Sun's Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 2 (685 words) Published: May 21, 2006
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...
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