The Color of Thought

April 27, 2009
By Anonymous

What would the world be like without the presence of light and dark? The conflict of light vs. dark has morphed it’s way into a separate conflict, one with good vs. evil. People base their life off of the views on good and evil which means that light and dark are extremely influential. Humans also plan their lives around a variety of different colors. Color, light, and dark have a way to influence people’s actions and emotions. The imagery of dark, light, and color intertwine and bring out the symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter.

Throughout The Scarlet Letter, darkness is a representation of how corrupt a man’s soul is capable of being. In the beginning, the novel introduces a prison to the readers as the very essence of the blackness of society. A variety of unwelcome vegetation gave the building a gloomy and unwelcoming look. The prison is a symbol of sin and wrongdoing amongst the town’s people. The “black flower” represents the sin that poisons the town (Hawthorne 2). The author, Nathanial Hawthorne, emphasizes how people perceive the prison by describing a picture that is appealing to the reader’s senses. Darkness can also come from a person’s actions, feelings, and expressions. Facial expressions are a common way to examine a person’s personality. While talking to Hester, Arthur Dimmesdale, “looked at her, for an instant, with all that violence of passion, which – intermixed, in more shapes than one, with his higher, purer, softer qualities – was, in fact, the portion of him which the Devil claimed, and through which sought to win the rest. Never was a blacker or fiercer frown, than Hester now encountered” (Hawthorne 149). Dimmesdale was slowly going insane with guilt and remorse for the adultery he committed and it started to show through his actions. His black frown represents his true unhappiness that he was facing alone. The minister had to deal with what his suffering was doing to him internally. He was confused, depressed, and became dark and dreary over time. His suffering got to the point that he became very sick and realized that the outcome of his future was looking very bleak (Hawthorne 156). Arthur Dimmesdale was faced with having to deal with his sin, which soon led him to believe that there was no turning back. The darkness of his mind is symbolizing his sin and what it did to corrupt his soul. Despite the darkness in the novel, imagery light brings out the better half of the characters.

The imagery in The Scarlet Letter involving light in a variety of forms symbolizes the purity of the characters. Pearl was one of the purest characters in the book and she was constantly surrounded by sunshine and light. While on a walk with her mother, “Pearl set forth, at a great pace, and, as Hester smiled to perceive, did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendor, and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion” (Hawthorne 138). The writing style allows the reader to feel as though they are there with the characters experiencing it all personally. The fact that Pearl is so happy and content while in the sunshine shows that sunshine represents purity. Hester rarely gets to be in the sunshine, but when she did to talk with Reverend Dimmesdale, he convinced her to remove the scarlet letter from her chest. When she, it was like a load was lifted off of her chest, and she lit up so brightly that the whole forest, down to the very last leaf, was shone upon by her happiness (Hawthorne 158). The forest was described in great detail which goes along with the sunshine bursting from Hester because she freed herself from the scarlet letter that had burdened her. Hester and Pearl are not the only characters who thrive off of the benefits of sunshine.
Arthur Dimmesdale regains an acute amount of control in his life and the effects shine all around him. When Arthur Dimmesdale finally realizes that he must come clean with Hester he discovers that his love for Hester will fill his heart with so much joy that it will actually create a sunshine that will shine for the whole world (Hawthorne 158) He becomes relived when he admits to himself that he must confess his sin, and the happiness of his soul is shown by the sunshine coming out of his heart and spreading to others. Along with sunshine, color also brings a different meaning to the characters.

Color plays a very significant role in The Scarlet Letter and is emphasized with descriptions of the scenes, characters, and objects. The scarlet letter represents Hester’s sin and the color of it is brought to the attention of the reader with the visual description of it. When Hester first got the scarlet letter, she was anxious about the public punishment she was to endure while wearing the letter. Hester stepped out into public and realized that her punishment was real, and the thought of this made her tense up and clutch to her child to shield the letter (Hawthorne 12). The bold color choice for the letter was not a coincidence. Red is commonly associated with sin or the Devil, which made the color of the letter very appropriate. Pearl was the symbol of Hester’s sin, and the author showed this by tying the color of the letter to Pearl herself. When the governor found Pearl in his house he mocked that he had never seen such a vibrant scarlet child. Pearl reminds him of, “when the sun has been shining through a richly painted window, and tracing out the golden and crimson images across the floor” (Hawthorne 60). While Pearl is not a red bird, she is rosy in the cheeks and is dressed in red clothing. The color of her goes to symbolize how she is the living representation of Hester’s sin. As the story progresses, the townspeople’s view of Hester begins to change. They start to see her as able instead of having committed adultery. This is shown when Dimmesdale is asked if he was aware of the very vibrant scarlet letter A that appeared above the town (Hawthorne 110). The townspeople now think of the color red to be almost a good sign to have and to be around instead of a sinful color.

Symbolism and imagery are shown in The Scarlet Letter when light, dark, and color are referred to. The true meaning of the novel is brought out when the characters reflect the symbolism of black, sunshine, and scarlet. For many years darkness vs. sunshine and evil vs. good have had a great amount of influence on humans. Light, dark, and color find a way to influence in society in an endless variety of ways.

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