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Color Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

  • Word Count: 499
  • Approx Pages: 2

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 some powerful emotion”, which explains that Chillingworth’s darkness is a result of his iniquity. 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. 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”. Furthermore, Hester begins to see “a glare of red light out of his eyes”, making him appear like the devil.
Hawthorne uses dim colors to symbolize Hester. Hester, from being an outcast for so long, has hidden away her beauty and liveliness. She therefore clothes herself in gray garments that nearly hide her from sight. Hawthorne quotes, “On this public holiday, as on all other occasions, for seven years past, Hester was clad in a garment of coarse gray cloth. 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”. Similarly, the passage, “overhead was a gray expanse of cloud”, is an example of Hester’s dreariness, for h...

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Color Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:21, May 30, 2016, from