Chiaroscuro: The Beauty in a World of Gloomy Grey
Defined as a technique of contrasting dark and light to highlight elements within a piece of art or a story, chiaroscuro is displayed throughout The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also prevalent in many masterpieces created by Rembrandt during the 17 century, Rembrandt uses chiaroscuro to create a focal point in his paintings and evoke personal thought. Hawthorne uses chiaroscuro to focus on the element of overall sin and to illustrate conflicts between characters. A comparison of chiaroscuro in Rembrandts paintings and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, provides a deeper understand of how light and dark play a key role in the development of characters and theme. Sin is one of the most important themes in The Scarlet Letter. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne presents nature as being evil. For example, the forest displays a moral wilderness that is encompassed within a dark and gloomy atmosphere. However in Chapter 18, Hawthorne uses chiaroscuro as a device to show a change in the forest as Hester succumbs to the evil of nature and of her sin. “…she undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and, taking it from her bosom, threw it…All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest…” During this scene, Hester releases herself from the burden that the scarlet letter brings. As Hester gives into her natural instincts, the forest around her slowly begins to brighten and become overcome by light. This new found light in the forest that grows hand in hand with Hester’s happiness is shown to be good and/or normal based on Hawthorne’s tone. He focuses on the beauty of the light and how it highlights every living thing in the forest, almost in an angelic way. The tone and use of chiaroscuro in this passage allows the reader to believe that giving into your natural instincts and wants is not necessarily wrong or sinful, but nothing more than...
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. EMC/Paradigm Publishing. Acess ed. St. Paul, Minnesota: EMC/Paradigm, 1998. Print. EMC Masterpiece.
Self Portrait as St. Paul
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