Simile in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter I 1
"Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era..."   (Chapter I)

This simile is important to the major theme of deception in the novel. This means that the sinful nature of humans is sometimes hard to predict because we don’t understand exactly where it comes from--sometimes simply happening over time.

"ike a snake gliding swiftly over them..."   (Chapter III)

In the Bible, the devil comes to Adam and Eve in the form of a snake and tempts them to betray God. This simile could be an allusion to that story, representing the presence of the devil in the crowd and the evil influence spreading among them.

"like a miner searching for gold; or, rather, like a sexton delving into a grave..."   (Chapter X)

These two similes are meant to express the manner in which Chillingworth attempts to discover who Hester had her affair with. The first simile represents Chillingworth as a miner, looking for something valuable without negative consequence of action. However, the second simile, that compares him to a sexton stealing jewels from a grave, has much darker and more negative connotations.

"So the child flew away like a bird..."   (Chapter XIV)

This simile draws a parallel between Pearl and the natural world. By comparing Pearl to a bird, Hawthorne strengthens Pearl as a symbol for the free and wild aspects of human nature.

"it was like the first encounter, in the world beyond the grave..."   (Chapter XVII)

Hawthorne uses this simile to represent the difference between the forest and town. The forest has two symbolic meanings. First, it is characterized by darkness, an area where Satan meets with witches. However, the forest also symbolizes freedom from societal constraints and the ridicule that Hester and Pearl face in society. This is the first time in the story that Hester and Dimmesdale meet out of town, and it is also possibly the first time they’ve been able to speak freely to one another since Pearl was conceived.

"in a moral wilderness; as vast, as intricate and shadowy, as the untamed forest..."   (Chapter XVIII)

This simile represents one of the major questions presented by the novel, what is more morally correct: the laws of nature or the laws of man? “The untamed forest” symbolizes the “moral wilderness” in which Hester lives. She constantly must wrestle with what is truely good and what society claims is the clear path.

"Thou canst leap like a young deer!..."   (Chapter XIX)

Hawthorne continuously uses similes to compare Pearl to different animals that all allude to her freedom. Hawthorne chooses to use an assortment of animals to symbolize how the natural world is connected: even though all animals are different, they share similarities.

"Thou canst leap like a young deer!..."   (Chapter XIX)

Hawthorne continuously uses similes to compare Pearl to different animals that all allude to her freedom. Hawthorne chooses to use an assortment of animals to symbolize the cohesion of natural world: even though all animals are different, they share similarities.

"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.

"stood up for the welfare of the state like a line of cliffs against a tempestuous tide..."   (Chapter XXII)

This simile represents the irony in the rules and regulations of the Puritans. While they profess to care for the “welfare of the state,” many of their rules actually cause sadness, despair, and harm those who live under the laws of their society.

"like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun..."   (Chapter XXIV)

Hawthorne uses this simile to contrast the flower imagery (symbols for good) found in the story. When the reasons for Chillingworth to be in Boston are uprooted with Dimmesdale’s death, he has nothing to hold onto or live for, and so he simply dies as a product of his own hateful revenge.