Color Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Length: 2 Pages 499 Words

Symbolism, frequently used in literature, can appear in many forms. The use of colors is one such example, in which the color worn or depicted by a character can determine the character’s attributes. Black, for example, may represent satanic evil whereas white may symbolize purity. Hawthorne takes advantage of using colors to describe his characters in The Scarlet Letter. The use of colors represented in Chillingworth’s darkness, Hester’s dullness, and Pearl’s vividness show that these characters stand for a broader meaning. The color black represents Chillingworth, an evil man who often is compared to the devil. Even when the character is first introduced in the novel, Hawthorne states, “his face darkened with som Continue...


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Consequently, the colors Hawthorne uses help to give meaning to characters in a symbolic way. Showing how the color black symbolizes his satanic qualities, Pearl exclaims, "Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man or devil will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. e powerful emotion", which explains that Chillingworth"tms darkness is a result of his iniquity. Come away, mother, or he will catch you!" Chillingworth grows more sinister every time Hester sees him, like "how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier". Not more by its hue than by some indescribable peculiarity in its fashion, it has the effect of making her fade personally out of sight and outline". In Hawthorne"tms words, Pearl"tms beauty has "so much strength of coloring"; also known as "a beauty that shone with deep and vivid tints". Similarly, the passage, "overhead was a gray expanse of cloud", is an example of Hester"tms dreariness, for her surroundings are also described as gray. Hawthorne uses dim colors to symbolize Hester. Unlike Hester, Pearl is not dressed in such simple clothing, but is dressed colorfully to symbolize her vibrant personality. Pearl, on the other hand, is described with vivid colors, showing her wild passion. She therefore clothes herself in gray garments that nearly hide her from sight. The green "A" can symbolize Pearl"tms liveliness, for green is the color of life. To produce a dramatic effect, Hawthorne also uses the color red on the scarlet letter to make it stand out, which in a way keeps Hester from completely diminishing. Hester, from being an outcast for so long, has hidden away her beauty and liveliness.

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