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Characterization in The Scarlet Letter

Uploaded by bocalchick on Feb 23, 2000

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804. After his graduation from Bowdoin College in Maine, he quickly became a well-known author of literary tales concerning early American life. Between 1825 and 1850, he developed his talent by writing short fiction, and he gained international fame for his fictional novel The Scarlet Letter in 1850 (Clendenning 118). Rufus Wilmot Griswold stated, The frivolous costume and brisk action of the story of fashionable life are easily depicted by the practised sketcher, but a work like "The Scarlet Letter" comes slowly upon the canvas, where passions are commingled and overlaid with the masterly elaboration with which the grandest effects are produced in pictural composition and coloring. (Griswold 352) Throughout the novel, Hawthorne reveals character through the use of imagery and metaphor. In the first Chapter of The Scarlet Letter, "The Prison-Door", the reader is immediately introduced to the people of Puritan Boston. Hawthorne begins to develop the character of the common people in order to build the mood of the story. The first sentence begins, "A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes" (Hawthorne 45). Hawthorne's use of vivid visual images and his Aaccumulation of emotionally weighted details" (Baym xii) creates sympathy for the not yet introduced character, Hester Prynne, and creates an immediate understanding of the harshness of the Puritanic code in the people. The images created give the freedom to imagine whatever entails sadness and morbidity of character for the reader; Hawthorne does not, however, allow the reader to imagine lenient or cheerful people. Nathaniel Hawthorne's eloquent contrast of the jail and its captive, Hester Prynne, also creates a sympathy for the emerging prisoner. The "ugly edifice...was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browned and gloomy front" (Hawthorne 45). The depiction of the jail emphasizes its ugliness, and the mental pictures formed in the mind of the reader suggest an aspect of gloom and suffering. However, Hester Prynne's initial description brightly contrasts the jail's. Hester "was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance...she had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off sunshine with a gleam" (50). Her face was "beautiful from regularity of feature...

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Uploaded by:   bocalchick

Date:   02/23/2000

Category:   The Scarlet Letter

Length:   5 pages (1,042 words)

Views:   2122

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