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The Scarlet Letter 5 Essay, Research Paper

The hundreds of pages in a typical novel come together to form an intricate web, whose many strands may be united in the minds of readers to form infinitely different interpretations. In many cases, the authors’ representation of their pet issues or most relevant commentaries are depicted by the style of rhetoric. Likewise, through the use of tone, diction, sentence structure, and imagery, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s prime purpose in the excerpt from The Scarlet Letter is to foster in the conceiver’s mind a poignant culmination of the potent affection between two meaningful characters, Hester and Dimmesdale.

The passage suggests a metaphysical mode, indirectly implying the two characters [Hester and Dimmesdale] are transcendental “two spirits”(line 6) and “disembodied beings”(line8). By way of adverting such expressions, Hawthorne formulates a spiritual image and perception. The narrator pointing out the fact that their “encounter” takes place in “the dim wood” has a double effect (line5). Primarily it tells us setting; it gives us an idea of where this meeting takes place (as far as this passage is concerned). The “wood” being important as it had Hellish connotations in those days, as people believed it was haunted by the “black man” [Satan], making the woods (Hell) a meeting place for sinners (Arthur and Hester). The other effect being the pun on the word “dim”, Nathaniel Hawthorne chose dim for a reason (it would serve the reader well to remember Author’s last name is Dimmesdale), to emphasize the mood, and equally important to give a slight humor in the seriousness of the passage. Hester and Dimmesdale, after seven long years, have been unable to discuss matters freely. At first, they are both ill at ease, so they put off talking about what is really on their minds, as they attempt casual conversation. (”When they found the voice to speak…it was…about the gloomy sky, the threatening storm…” line 19-20). Hawthorne’s diction sets a dismal tone. i.e. “gloomy… threatening.”

The complexity of Hawthorne’s sentences establishes a realization that appeals to the readers thoughts and emotions. The vernacular in the passage, ” ‘Is it thou? Art thou in life?’ ” (line 1), as well as the informality of expression between the two culprits, exerts a more lasting and convincing sway on the reader. (”…they went onward…to the themes that were brooding deepest in their hearts.” line 17-18). Thus, establishing ethos, the reader can relate to the thoughts of the characters through the structuralization of the sentences.

Metaphors and similes abound this passage each establishing a visual effect in the mind of the reader. Hawthorne implies that they [Hester and Dimmesdale] were led by one another into the woods both searching for a sense of togetherness (”…neither he nor she assuming the guidance, but with an unexpressed consent…”). It is suggested that they are now one, or complete, no longer two people (Hester and Arthur) but one “of the same sphere.” The metaphysical conceit is resumed. “The shadow of the woods” represents the shadow of Dimmesdale’s sin. Dimmesdale, who is a man of great reverence, has now embodied the guilt that will soon consume his life (line 15-17). There is an allusion to the Bible as well, the “shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). This, in turn, foreshadows the tragic denouement. The mirror in which the soul beheld its features was in each other’s eyes. Looking into the other’s eyes they [their souls] can see themselves (line 11). They are “coldly shuddering, in mutual dread” (line 7) because they are unaccustomed to the fellowship of spiritual individuals, and a little nervous, as it has been seven long years. Dimmesdale’s hand is “chill as death” (line 13) to further the simile of he to a “ghost”, or “spirit” and to give insight that he is not well, and possibly dying.

The years of mocking and degradation transform Hester into a pale shadow of her former self. When in the forest, Hester is liberated from her sexual repression. She is also liberated from her feelings of guilt. Thus it comes to pass that after “seven years,” or any greater or less lapse of time, the culprits are just as remote from true repentance as they were at the moment of committing their sin (line 2).


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