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Imagery in The Scarlet Letter

Imagery Examples in The Scarlet Letter:

Chapter XII

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"with a radiant halo, that glorified him amid this gloomy night of sin..."   (Chapter XII)

Hawthorne’s use of imagery here makes Reverend Wilson appear as an angel approaching Dimmesdale. Hawthorne does this to offer Dimmesdale a sense of false salvation; although he thinks an angel is coming to save him, it is nothing but a fellow priest who walks by him without lending a hand or saying a word.

"Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness..."   (Chapter XVI)

The brook provides an important point of comparison with Pearl, and Hawthorne's use of imagery here helps better convey the comparison. The auditory and visual imagery evokes sensory responses: readers can hear the sound of the streamlet.

"Pearl resembled the brook, inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a well-spring as mysterious..."   (Chapter XVI)

Recall in chapter XIII when Hester is called a “well-spring of human tenderness.” This means that Pearl is herself a free-flowing brook of human tenderness. This metaphor, of child coming from mother, is enhanced by the imagery of the brook described in the text.

"as if a flake of the sea-foam had taken the shape of a little maid, and were gifted with a soul of the sea-fire, that flashes beneath the prow in the night-time..."   (Chapter XXII)

This simile provides beautiful imagery that embodies the wildness and wonder of Pearl’s character. Hawthorne uses this fantastical image to enhance the feeling that Pearl herself is magical.

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