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Analysis of The Scarlet Letter Essay


Andres Salazar

Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era(43). Only taking fifteen to twenty years for the wooden jail to become darker besides its already gloomy appearance, the prison-door never looked new. With crime being associated to bad people and hatred, the prison door sets the tone for the novel. This prison-door, appearing to hold dangerous criminals, set in Utopia, where they know that misbehavior, evil, and death are unavoidable, sets the tone of sadness filled with sin. In Hawthornes passage from The Scarlet Letter, the prison-doors contrasts and detailed description convey the tone of sadness and condemnation, along with its connection to social order which helps create the overall thematic meaning.

Social order is a way to keep order in society and through the passage it shows how the prison-door is destined to keep criminals. The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison(42). A cemetery itself is a symbol of death and sadness and when added to a prison, a symbol also of death and hatred, it generates the tone of sadness filled with sin. In addition, Utopia is said to be a place where law and politics are perfectly handled. In the passage however a black flower appears, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison (43). The color black is also associated to be viewed with death and sadness. The black flower of civilized society meaning that Utopia itself is not the perfect society and in a way its a bad type of society since everything must be perfect. The black flower can also represent the jail itself where the color black is description which makes it seem as a greater evil.

Throughout the passage the many contrasts of the prison-door emphasize the tone of sadness and condemnation because Hawthorne keeps comparing good vs. evil. But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him (43). Initially Hawthorne compares the rusty old prison-door, symbolizing death and evil, to the wild rose bush, symbolizing love and beauty. When Hawthorne mentions Nature it emphasizes the tone because it shows that there is no beauty of a criminal walking into a jail or to walk to face their doom while seeing the rose bush. The comparison of the black flower to society also emphasizes the tone through its contrasts. The black flower shows evil and sadness in what Hawthorne compares to the civilized society. The Puritan society way of life was said to be very strict and led to be perfect. Through Hawthornes comparison, he contrasts the Puritan way of life and it is assumed that their way of life was bad and evil, the black flower. These contrasts show how the sadness and evil of condemnation evoke the tone.

In conclusion, the overall tone for the novel is sadness through sin and the evil of condemnation. This is created through Hawthornes passage about the prison-door. The prison-door itself and the rose bush are foreshadows towards the protagonist, Hester, and what her life will become. The flowers themselves, Hawthorne states, It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow (43).

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