The Identity of Mr. Sun

April 27, 2009
By Anonymous

The Identity of Mr. Sun

“Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun! Please shine down on me! Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun! Hiding behind a tree. These little children are asking you to please come out so we can play with you. Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down on me!” This song partially summarizes the sixteenth chapter of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If Hester had a song to express her thoughts, she would surely sing the one above. Sunshine is a mystery to all humans, including scientists. Sunshine is defined as the light and warmth provided by the sun, but it can symbolize cheerfulness, joy, youthfulness, and overall good.

Sunshine’s literal definition is the light or the direct rays from the sun, the warmth given by the sun’s rays, or even a location or surface on which the sun’s ray’s fall. Hawthorne uses the literal definition of sunshine when he describes the forest scene, saying, and “Overhead was a gay expanse or cloud, slightly stirred, however, by a breeze, so that a gleam of flickering sunshine might now and then be seen at its solitary play along the path” (Hawthorne 138). Hawthorne even elaborates on sunshine’s characteristics by saying “when the sunshine fell aslant – wise over the front of the edifice, it glittered and sparkled as if diamonds had been flung against it” (Hawthorne 54). In this scene, Hawthorne shows sunshine’s beauty- another positive point. Yet another positive fact about the sun is that research as shown that humans need sunshine to thrive. Without sunshine, humans lack Vitamin D. Many cases of depression are linked with lack of sunshine. Vitamin D helps in making bones stronger and is even recognized in helping with the body’s immune system. Studies have proven the humans need sunlight to survive; because of this, humans already think of actual sunshine as a positive force.

Similar to the literal meaning, sunshine’s connotation is positive as well. When breaking the word down, two words are taken from the one; the words sun and shine. Sun was worshipped as a god in ancient Egypt, and shine is something that is to be desired by every human; whether in their hair or in a tan, a glow is taken to be positive. Bringing these two words with positive connotations together, the word sunshine is formed with an even more positive connotation than the words were given separately. Sunshine is a connotation for warmth, happiness, cheerfulness, joy, light, good, and youthfulness. The reader gets to grasp a scene in The Scarlet Letter with great symbolism when Hawthorne writes, “Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom.” (Hawthorne p. 138) Hawthorne is very obvious with this chapter in portraying sunshine’s positive connotation, and, along with that, highlighting the negative connotation that the scarlet letter holds. Hawthorne is not as obvious when, earlier in the book he writes “No, my little Pearl!” said her mother. “Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!” (Hawthorne p. 54). Here, Hawthorne is showing that Hester understands the connotation that the scarlet letter holds. The positive weight that is given to sunshine, both in reality and throughout the book, contrasts Hester consistently to emphasize the negative connotation that the scarlet letter holds.

After establishing sunshine’s literal meaning and connotative meaning, it is important to identify sunshine’s role throughout the book. As previously stated, Hawthorne only portrays the sunshine as a positive influence. It could be believed that the sunshine is a foil character in the book; because, although it does not a have a distinct or main role, its positive characteristics and connotation contrasts Hester and her scarlet letter so precisely. One can assume that its purpose is only to show the reader how truly miserable life is with the scarlet letter.

The author's comments:
This paper really focuses on the connotative and denotative meanings of the word sunshine and how they are related. It is very interesting how authors can use them as symbols in their writing.

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