Significance of Color in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 2 (640 words) Published: June 28, 2008
"A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray," the opening lines of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter recognizes color in depicting images into the reader's mind. The novel unfolds over a span of seven years in Puritan America during the seventeenth century. Moral justice is tested as the plot revolves around the sin of adultery. The author uses color to illustrate the significance and symbolism of the emblem "A," Roger Chillingworth, and Pearl Prynne.

The adulterer, Hester Prynne, is obligated to wearing the letter "A" as a sign of her sinfulness. The emblem is recognized as "fine red cloth surrounded with elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread." It is important to note that Hester has dark hair and black eyes; therefore, the scarlet and gold of the emblem are focal points to her image as well as it conveys her sin. The fact that the "A" is done in gold thread further makes the scarlet letter appear extravagant and immodest. The townspeople are recognized for wearing their plain "garment of coarse gray cloth." This exemplifies that the colors of the "A," being a brilliant gold and scarlet, are in contrast to the common dress of the people. Bystanders are frequently offended because Hester seems to be proud of what should be an emblem of sin. Simply, the color of the scarlet letter portrays its ubiquitous presence throughout the novel.

Roger Chillingworth, the suspicious physician, is associated with the color black throughout the novel. He is clearly the enemy and is depicted as devilishly evil and cruel. Enemies are most commonly identified with darkness. Hester, who is scared of him, asks, "Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about us? Hast thou enticed me into a bold that will prove the ruin of my soul?" She identifies Chillingworth with Satan, the figure who tries to get people to sign his book and enlist them for evil. Pearl later also remarks in the same sense about him...
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