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Home:A Pattern Of Imagery In The Scarlet Letter And The Tempest


A Pattern Of Imagery In The Scarlet Letter And The Tempest
In " The Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel Hawthorne, like
Shakespeare in" The Tempest", used imagery to support his
theme. The main theme of the Hawthorne's novel was the
unrelenting and unchanging attitude of the Puritans.
Hawthorne used the letter as well as the prison scene to
strengthen his theme. Shakespeare, who did not emphasize a
specific theme in "The Tempest", seemed to portray Prospero
as a supreme being who could be affected by no one.
Shakespeare uses countless images throughout the book
including those of the magic books as well as the idea that
Prospero seems to be in control at all times. Hawthorne and
Shakespeare both use a pattern of imagery in their works to
strengthen the theme of their respective works. 

The most evident piece of imagery used by Hawthorne is that
of the letter which is a punishment for adultery, and
serves a purpose for the Puritans. The letter reminds the
other men and women of the crime of adultery and the
punishment of committing such a crime. It symbolizes how
the Puritans are unrelenting, and unforgiving. In
administering the punishment, the Puritans do not take into
account the reasons for the crime, nor do they consider
what this punishment will do to Hester. In punishing Hester
with the scarlet letter, they have stereotyped her as an
adulteress and to some, such as Pearl she is unrecognizable
without the letter. The following passage shows how Pearl
is unable to recognize her own mother without the letter. 

"I see what ails the child" whispered Hester to the
clergyman, and turning pale in spite of a strong effort to
conceal her trouble and annoyance. "Children will not abide
any, the slightest, change in the accustomed aspect of
things that are daily before their eyes. Pearl misses
something which she has always seen me wear."
Because of a change of appearance in her mother, Pearl is
unwilling to recognize her mother. The idea that her mother
must wear the letter at all times has been planted in the
heads of all the townspeople, including Pearl. This is
typical of Puritans who seem to reiterate what has been
previously said. The Puritans were fanatically religious
and believed almost everything was evil, hence the
unforgiving punishments for all crimes 

Another image used by Hawthorne was the prison door. The
door is described as old and "marked with other indications
of age". The following passage shows the condition that the
old door was in: "The rust on the ponderous ironwork of its
oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the
New World." This supports the same theme of Puritan
mentality. Like the rust appears to be the oldest thing in
the New World, so are the ideas of the Puritans which are
greatly outdated and so obsolete that they were no longer
accepted by a vast majority of people in Europe and other
parts of the New World. This shows how unchanging the
Puritans are. Although people and the world around them
were changing, the Puritan ideas and ways of living
remained the same. 

Hawthorne also uses the rosebush as another image to
strengthen the theme. It appears in the same scene as the
prison. The following passage describes the rosebush which
symbolizes what Puritan society could and was supposed to
let us hope, to symbolize some wee moral blossom, that may
be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of
a tale of human frailty and sorrow." This shows the reader
what the Puritan society could have been, if the original
goal of a utopia had been achieved. But Hawthorne contrasts
this with the prison door which represents the dystopia and
unchanging nature of the Puritan society. 

Shakespeare in writing " The Tempest" depicted Prospero
almost as a god. He has control over the island, its
surrounding waters, and the people on the island. Through
his magic he can control spirits to perform his every
bidding and through his further manipulation of magic he
can mold the future into the form he desires. Shakespeare
made Prospero into a godlike figure by using imagery of
magic. The magic can be interpreted as plain magic or can
be interpreted as the powers of god. Shakespeare by giving
Prospero magical powers has transformed him into a king of
god. The following passage shows the power and the things
that Prospero was able to achieve with such power. 

" I have bedimmed the noontide sun, called forth the
mutinous winds, and twixt the green sea and the azured
vault set roaring war to the dread rattling thunder. Have I
given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak with his own bolt;" 

These things that Prospero boasts of are achievements of
god. Through such manipulations of magic Prospero is made
to appear as one. He is in control of everything throughout
the play and not at one time does he appear as if he does
not know what is going around him. 

Prospero is in definite control over all the people as well
as the elements of the island. From the start of the play
he is depicted as in control and as someone who will make
the situation work our the way he wants to. By
administering punishments according to the severity of the
crime, Prospero again appear fair, just and godlike. The
punishments administered to Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban
are in to way as severe as those administered to Antonio,
Alonso, and Sebastian who banished Prospero from Milan.
Alonso was punished with the death of his son, Ferdinand
(who did not really die) and perhaps received the worst
punishment of all. Shakespeare, though imagery of the
achievements and punishments of Prospero has portrayed him
as a kind of god.
In " The Scarlet Letter" and " The Tempest", Nathaniel
Hawthorne and William Shakespeare both use specific imagery
to reinforce their themes. Hawthorne uses the letter itself
and contrasts between the prison and the rosebush nearby to
reinforce the theme of Puritan mentality. Shakespeare on
the other hand, uses Prospero's actions to reinforce the
theme that Prospero is a sort of god or at least has
godlike powers. Both authors use patterns of imagery to
reinforce their themes in their book or novel.



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