Shmoop breaks down key quotations from The Scarlet Letter.

The first scaffold scene is in the sunlight. The sunlight in this novel is a symbol of disguise.

This is the first symbol Hawthorne uses throughout the story as a test of who is innocent at this present time and who is not just as they did during the witch trials....

In a work that is apparently never what it seems, drawing upon these symbols for clarity helps to provide the audience with additional depth to the deception that Goodman Brown feels.

The intense tension caused by the competition between the women characters is also shown in “So Long a Letter” when the two men, Modou Fall and Mawdo Bâ, marry their second wives....

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‘(4). They differ in the regularity of their colouring. Four colours in particular have been noticeable, orange lowest and nearest the sundown; above this and broader, green; above this, and broader still, a variable red, ending in being crimson; above this, a faint lilac. The lilac disappears, the green deepens, spreads, and encroaches on the orange, and the red deepens, spreads, and encroaches on the green, till at last one red, varying downwards from crimson to scarlet or orange, fills the west and south.

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The widespread sunset effects attracted the attention of many observers, and the Royal Society Report quotes extensively from accounts of the sunsets previously published in the periodical press. One such account is the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’s letter in the 3 January 1884 edition of Nature. The Royal Society Report offers this summary:

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Essay Questions For The Scarlet Letter pevita mixpress

It was the capital letter A. By an accurate measurement, each limb proved to be precisely three inches and a quarter in length. It had been intended, there could be no doubt, as an ornamental article of dress; but how it was to be worn, or what rank, honour, and dignity, in by–past times, were signified by it, was a riddle which (so evanescent are the fashions of the world in these particulars) I saw little hope of solving. And yet it strangely interested me. My eyes fastened themselves upon the old scarlet letter, and would not be turned aside. Certainly there was some deep meaning in it most worthy of interpretation, and which, as it were, streamed forth from the mystic symbol, subtly communicating itself to my sensibilities, but evading the analysis of my mind.

Scarlet letter symbolism essay

A portion of his facts, by–the–by, did me good service in the preparation of the article entitled “MAIN STREET,” included in the present volume. The remainder may perhaps be applied to purposes equally valuable hereafter, or not impossibly may be worked up, so far as they go, into a regular history of Salem, should my veneration for the natal soil ever impel me to so pious a task. Meanwhile, they shall be at the command of any gentleman, inclined and competent, to take the unprofitable labour off my hands. As a final disposition I contemplate depositing them with the Essex Historical Society. But the object that most drew my attention to the mysterious package was a certain affair of fine red cloth, much worn and faded, There were traces about it of gold embroidery, which, however, was greatly frayed and defaced, so that none, or very little, of the glitter was left. It had been wrought, as was easy to perceive, with wonderful skill of needlework; and the stitch (as I am assured by ladies conversant with such mysteries) gives evidence of a now forgotten art, not to be discovered even by the process of picking out the threads. This rag of scarlet cloth—for time, and wear, and a sacrilegious moth had reduced it to little other than a rag—on careful examination, assumed the shape of a letter.


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Meanwhile, there I was, a Surveyor of the Revenue and, so far as I have been able to understand, as good a Surveyor as need be. A man of thought, fancy, and sensibility (had he ten times the Surveyor’s proportion of those qualities), may, at any time, be a man of affairs, if he will only choose to give himself the trouble. My fellow–officers, and the merchants and sea–captains with whom my official duties brought me into any manner of connection, viewed me in no other light, and probably knew me in no other character. None of them, I presume, had ever read a page of my inditing, or would have cared a fig the more for me if they had read them all; nor would it have mended the matter, in the least, had those same unprofitable pages been written with a pen like that of Burns or of Chaucer, each of whom was a Custom–House officer in his day, as well as I. It is a good lesson—though it may often be a hard one—for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world’s dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized and to find how utterly devoid of significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at. I know not that I especially needed the lesson, either in the way of warning or rebuke; but at any rate, I learned it thoroughly: nor, it gives me pleasure to reflect, did the truth, as it came home to my perception, ever cost me a pang, or require to be thrown off in a sigh. In the way of literary talk, it is true, the Naval Officer—an excellent fellow, who came into the office with me, and went out only a little later—would often engage me in a discussion about one or the other of his favourite topics, Napoleon or Shakespeare. The Collector’s junior clerk, too a young gentleman who, it was whispered occasionally covered a sheet of Uncle Sam’s letter paper with what (at the distance of a few yards) looked very much like poetry—used now and then to speak to me of books, as matters with which I might possibly be conversant. This was my all of lettered intercourse; and it was quite sufficient for my necessities.

Scarlet letter symbolism essay

Tissu’s shipboard account is not the only example of The Purple Cloud mimicking the methods of representation through which witnesses reported and scientists studied the Krakatoa eruption. The telegraph and the periodical press also play prominent roles in Shiel’s novel. As Adam returns to Europe from the North Pole and searches for other survivors, he thinks of, but rejects, the telegraph and the wireless (the recently invented radio) as means of expediting his search: “I had some knowledge of the Morse code, of the manipulation of tape-machines, telegraphic typing-machines, wireless transmitting . . . so I could have wirelessed, or tried to wire from Bergen, to somewhere; but I would not: I was so afraid; afraid lest for ever from nowhere should occur one replying click, or stir of dial-needle” (78). Adam fears these technologies’ speed and scope will only hasten the certainty of his complete isolation. So horrifying is this prospect that he focuses on the absence of impersonal, mechanical clicks and dials rather than the absence of the urgent interpersonal communication they were meant to facilitate.