OUTLINE: Light vs. Dark in The Scarlet Letter
Thesis: the Scarlet letter uses light and dark themes throughout the novel in the main characters and the scenery yet only Hester's character has a juxtaposition of both light and dark surrounding her character.
Light and dark in Dimmesdale
Dark and Dimmesdale. He is so full of self imposed darkness the real world does not even need to bother punishing him, he punishes himself more.
Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold at night hiding his sin and concealing his confession from the Puritan society
In chapter 16 Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest and their gilt is reflected in the darkness of nature. The forest is a place where they can hide from the rest of Puritan society and be honest with each other because it is dark and nobody can see them.
Even Dimmesdale’s grave is dark “so somber is it, and relieved only by one ever-glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow”
Darkness provides Dimmesdale a place where he can wallow in his guilt and remorse
On the scaffolding where he should've stood seven years ago with Hester of a meteor lights up the sky and “they stood in the noon of that strange and solemn splendor as if it were the light that is to reveal all secrets”page 154
Pearl asks him to stand together in the light of day at noon that he chooses to conceal his sin until later
Dimmesdale is described with the glow that “they had just beheld burning on his cheek, was extinguished, like a flame that sinks down hopelessly among the late decaying embers”page 171 this was said break before he can best confesses his adultery and tells the world he is Pearl's father.
Light in Dimmesdale
It is noon, in the daylight, with full exposure when Dimmesdale finally is exposed as Hesters secret lover
Hester and Dimmesdale are sitting in the forest and talk about their love for one another as the sun finally reaches them. Page 177
His public confession and the broad light of sunshine is literally in the final moments of his life in the last scene.
Dimmesdale helps others repent and forgive their sins in his daily life Dimmesdale gave into a natural instinct in sleeping with Hester and he is repentant so it is not as big of a sin
The bright daylight after he revealed his sin purges his sin from him and allows him to escape Chillingworth forever.
Light and dark in Chillingworth
Chillingworth has no good light, he is the only character consistently associated with darkness, as he is the only truly evil character in the book.
He turns into a devil with blue fire in his eyes because he is mining for Dimmesdale's sin.
Chillingworth searches for darkness and sins with no intent to forgive that is why he is truly evil
light as evil
“Sometimes, a light glimmered out of the physicians eyes, burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace, or, let us say, like one of those gleams of ghastly fire that started from Bunyan’s awful doorway in the hillside” page 88 this is a description of killings were where light is evil in Chillingworth’s presence.
Revenge has turned him from a boring scholar into a demon from hell fiend whose sole purpose in life is to torture Dimmesdale and when Dimmesdale is dead he no longer has a reason to live.
Light and dark in Pearl
Darkness in Pearl is not really evil it is more about how she repels darkness with her innocent elf like behavior.
Pearl is drawn to the light which shows her natural instincts tell the truth. The light represents the truth. Pearl constantly reminds Hester of her darkness because she is the human proof of her sin.
The sunshine flickers only on Pearl in the deep dark forest. Pearl reminds her mother that the sun will not shine on Hester.
Pearl makes Hester put back on the Scarlet letter after she takes it off.
Light and Pearl
page 71 160 Hester and Perl are in the forests Pearl tells her mother, “the sunshine does not love you because it is a afraid of something on your bosom. It will not flee from me: for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!”
“She bore in her arms a child, a baby of some three months old, who winked and turned aside its little face from the two dated light of day: because it's existence, heretofore, had brought it up Queens only with the great twilight of the dungeon, or other dark some apartment of the prison”
Pearl is described as “the very brightest little jet of flame that ever dance upon this earth” page 69
Light and Dark juxtaposed in Hester
Hester connects both light and dark she is often described as both good and evil at the same time.
Page 65 the author describes Hesters hair as “dark and abundant” yet it is also “so glossy it threw off the sunshine with the gleam”
when Hester appeared the townspeople “had expected to behold her dimmed and secured by a disastrous cloud” yet in reality “her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune”
Hawthorne goes back and forth describing Hester as illuminating and then it talking about the dark mass inside of her. The sun shines on Hester in the dark forest only when she passionately lets down her hair.
In the end Hawthorne shows you that the light had outshined the darkness when she turns into a good citizen rather than as a disgraced adulterer.
In the forest Hester tries to grab the sunlight that it vanishes while she reaches for it.
In the forest Hester lets down her hair and throws off the Scarlet letter and the society that has shunned her and transforms the dark forest into a light filled place of truth.
In the forest she throws off the Scarlet letter and the forest literally begins to brighten up. The clouds spread apart and the sun begins to shine as if nature is supporting her in her decision to throw off the letter.
“She saw her own face, glowing with girlish beauty, and illuminating all the interior of the dusky mirror in which he had been wont to gaze at.”
“She thought of the dim forest, with its little Dell of solitude, and love, and anguish, and the mossy tree trunk, where, sitting hand-in-hand, they had mingled their sad and passionate talk.” (22.6)