symbolism of colors Essay

Submitted By res9357
Words: 1149
Pages: 5

Symbolism of Colors Nathaniel Hawthorne in the novel, The Scarlet Letter (1850), asserts that the color red represents passion and sin, the color black represents pure evil, and the color white represents light and change in The Scarlet Letter (1850). Hawthorne supports his assertion by illustrating the colors red in diverse manners and occurrences in the story such as the red rose bush and the red Scarlet Letter, the color black through the black weeds, and the color white when the white light is gleaming around Pearl. Hawthorne’s purpose for using these colors is to portray their emotions. Hawthorne writes in a coarse tone for the readers of The Scarlet Letter (1850) because he was angry and did not like the Puritans. To begin, The most frequently used color symbol in The Scarlet Letter (1850) is red. Red most noticeably represents the sin committed by Hester, as shown by the scarlet “A” she is forced to wear on her chest. "On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A.” (pg 50) As mostly everyone knows the “A” stands for adultery. The scarlet letter, like her sin, is something that she will never be able to forget and is something she can never escape from. The color red is also used to represent the result of the sin, as Pearl is usually dressed in red clothing. Pearl is called a wide variety of names pertaining to the color red in the book such as Ruby, Coral, Red Rose, and a little bird of scarlet plumage. Red is also used by Hawthorne to represent the passion and sensuality of the other characters in the book. Red is used to represent the sin further with the red “A” formed from meteors and the “A” appearing on Dimmesdale’s chest. The wild red rose bush that formed outside of the prison where Hester was being held represented Hester’s place in a Puritan society that would no longer accept her for who she was. Hawthorne states that “This rosebush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history…It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom that may be found along the track.” (pg. 23) The meaning to this quote shows how powerful colors can be to show the true emotions of the characters and the setting around them. Secondly, another frequently used color used by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter (1850) is black. Black is mainly used to represent the darkness and evil that is living throughout this book. It is the absolute worst symbolism color he uses, he uses it to describe the most absolute pure evil. Very early in the book, Hawthorne refers to the prison as the “black flower of civilized society,” (pg 45) meaning it as a place representing evil and darkness. And the black weeds by the gravestone symbolized that man was evil and committed sin. Darkness is occasionally turned to light within the book, suggesting that darkness represents a place of hiding, where true emotions are not shown and characters hide from their problems. Another example of the use of the color black in the book is when Pearl’s eyes are referred to as “small black mirrors,” (pg 76) meaning they are empty and filled with evilness and sin. The Puritan’s refer to Satan and evil beings as the “Black Man” in the forest, as he represents darkness and all that is evil about society. Black is used as a tool to show the most evil part of a person or object, as it can only be countered by the color of white. Third, white is used by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter (1850) to represent light and change. White is the color employed by Hawthorne to oppose black and darkness as a method of self-containment. Pearl, who has never committed a sin herself, is almost always portrayed with a light shining upon her, symbolizing the good, her existence, coming out of the bad, her conception through adultery. Hester, who is looked down upon by the entire town throughout the book, removed her letter