Scarlet Letter Light+Dark Imagery Essay, Research Paper
Sunlight, darkness, brightness, shadow; these are the things that, according to the Bible, God created on the first day of creation. Sunlight represents liveliness and merriment, and darkness represents death and sorrow. The Scarlet Letter has continuous examples of these, and most of them take place in two very important, but very different scenes in the midst of the novel. The market place is one of these settings that has sun shining down on it, showing off its possessions. The forest is the other main environment, but this place is secret and full of darkness, except for an occasional ray of light.
The main characters in this book are either explained to the reader as one who attracts brightness, or one who repels it. It is said many times in The Scarlet Letter that Hester Prynne has a dark presence about her, but her daughter Pearl is in abundance with the sunshine. An example of this is when Hester says to Pearl, No my little Pearl! Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee. Even Hester s tombstone gives off a dark feeling, more so than any other grave does. So sombre is it, and relieved only by one ever glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow: On a field, sable, the letter A gules. The Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale is somewhere between the gleam of his daughter Pearl and the darkness of his lover Hester. He is so far from both of them, that he is never described in the novel as bright, dark, or even a pale middle. The gloomiest character of all is Hester s old and frail husband, Roger Chillingworth. When he is described in chapter 15, questions are asked about his demeanor. One thing that is asked to the reader about Chillingworth that implies his dark existence is, was there, a circle of ominous shadow moving along with his deformity, whichever way he turned himself?
Sunlight seems to fall on the market place very often throughout the book. It is a public place that serves as the center for Puritan life in the Boston settlement, therefore it does not seem odd that it would be considered a bright place to be. One case where the light is beaming on the market place is when Hester emanates from the prison like a black shadow emerging into the sunshine . The market place is a warmer and safer place than the lonesome forest, and due to this it seems to give off light. Only once in The Scarlet Letter, when Hester and Pearl meet Dimmesdale the night of Wilson s death, does the market place seem dull to the reader.
The forest is a dark and secretive place to be. The forest is a lonely place that some settlers go to get away for awhile and just think, and others go to meet with the devil. It is a place where people can be free and not worry about laws and the restrictions of religion that are bound to them. There are some, although few, rays of sunshine that come into the forest, but they seem to go away when Hester is near. Pearl finally learns that she attracts sunlight but Hester resists it. A portion of chapter 16 proves this:
The sportive sunlight feebly sportive, at best, in the predominant pensiveness of the day and scene withdrew itself as they came nigh, and left the spots where it had danced the drearier, because they had hoped to find them bright.
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. Now, see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!
Everyone has a certain luster about them, and Hawthorne, when writing The Scarlet Letter, obviously believed that the luminescence of a person is a very important trait in learning about their essential qualities. What Hawthorne wants us to know is that dark places can leak in light, and light places can be somber anytime.