Color In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Superior Essays
Color, a powerful tool in the hands of an author, can completely alter the mood of a scene with a single hue. Run by the mindset of inescapable sin, the Puritan community of Boston in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, thrives upon the monochromatic shades that paint its corrupted principles. Hawthorne uses color strategically to create an ominous atmosphere following the experiences of Hester Prynne, a young woman guilty of committing adultery while simultaneously uncovering Boston’s own sins. Throughout the story, the presence of black show how Boston and its inhabitants push the community’s decit into light. The associations of black in The Scarlet Letter reflect Boston’s hypocritical society, one that both isolates nonconformists …show more content…
One of the most prominent and repeated uses of black occurs when referring to sin itself. The Black Man, a manifestation of all evil in the community, acts as a key component when discussing sin in Boston. While talking with Hester after her sentencing, Roger Chillingworth pokes and prods at her with questions concerning the name of Hester’s courter. Tired of his prying questions, Hester asks, “‘Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round us? Hast thou enticed me into a bond that prove the ruin of my soul?’” (Hawthorne 72). Boston’s hypocrisy reveals itself at every mention of the Black Man. Although the Puritans associate the Black Man with all sin and evil, they continue to wear black or other dark colors on a regular basis despite being a town built upon holy principles. Black acts as a symbol of sin in the community, both for the citizens and that which embodies the evils of Hell. The notion of black simultaneously being used in sinful and holy contexts piques when Dimmesdale confesses to lying about committing adultery with Hester on the scaffold, he cries, “I, whom you behold in these black garments of the priesthood” (Hawthorne 131). His usage of “you” implies that the citizens have to take responsibility for putting Dimmesdale in such a position. The pastor, an icon of pure and holy principles, adorns the colors of sin and evil and blames the townspeople for adorning him with such …show more content…
In the closing scene of Hester and Dimmesdale’s tombstone, Boston’s shows its inability to escape its own sin. The shared tombstone depicts, “on a field, sable, the letter A, [surrounded by black]” (Hawthorne 253). The depiction of Hester’s trademark A on a black background reflects the sin of the community isolating the nonconformist. The dynamic between individual sin, such as Hester, and the sins of the community clash when the two share similar characteristics. The more the town sins, the darker they became. The same goes for the individual. However, when the individual sins more, Boston refuses to address its own wrongdoings and forgive the individual. Instead, the town as a whole surrounds itself with its own sins while simultaneously shaming others for their transgressions.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, uses the associations of black to reveal the hypocritical nature of the Puritan community of Boston as it attempts to hide its own mistakes. The town creates a “sin bubble” for itself where it only sees the sins of others and dismisses its own. This Puritan hivemind rises up through demeaning others and crumbles when the holes of their own sins break through and pop their impossible, sinless utopia of a town. Boston’s own version of “a city upon a hill” only climbs the hill by stepping on those who refuse to accept outdated

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