AP LaC III- 4th Period
30 September 2014
The Scarlett Letter Essay
In chapter 15, “Hester and Pearl,” paragraph 1 from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, tone plays a key component in determining the Hester’s view towards Chillingworth. Hawthorne’s powerful use of language provides the reader with an image of a raggedy old man, his deleterious actions to all around him, and important imagery that oxymoronically displays his evil. This man is Chillingworth, and the mood surrounding him is malignant at best. Using a combination of the stylistic elements of diction and imagery, Hawthorne conveys Hester’s attitude towards Chillingworth that is of budding contempt. The reader is forced to keep in mind, throughout the paragraph, Chillingworth’s resonant evil. Thus, the tone shifts and offers the reader a glimpse into what Hester believes to be possible of such evil.
Diction works to set the chapter’s mood and depict many visual images. Initially, the reader pictures “a deformed old figure, with a face that haunted men’s memories… …stooping along the earth.” Evidentially, an old man appears haunting. Haunting usually indicates a repugnant memory that will not vanish. However, Hawthorne’s use of the word “deformed” actually indicates a more physical appearance based image. Such word choice denotes fear or consternation. A “deformed” old man conveys an image of a neglected, abandoned man however when he is referred to as haunting it becomes apparent why he is abandoned; it is a result of his own poisonous gaze. Earth “blighted beneath him” suggests a wake of death following the “wavering track of his footsteps.” The diction creates the visual image of Chillingworth, and the effect is certainly not a positive one. The reader immediately feels a slight repulsion from Chillingworth. It is evident within the first visual image that Hawthorne’s choice of words must indicate a slight contempt for this apparently malignant creature. In fact, Hawthorne continues with his description of the Chillingworth as just that: a malignant being. However, he does so with a questioningly negative tone. He details Chillingworth as