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Recognized by many as among America's greatest writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne certainly established the novel as a distinctive American genre with The Scarlet Letter. Its stylistic perfection is yet unparalleled.
From the beginning, Hawthorne employs as one technique color imagery. In Chapter I, for instance, the opening scene depicts the austerity of the Puritans "in sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats." Outside the dark prison door there is one lonely rose-bush amid the greyness. When the door of the jail is flung open, "like a black shadow" emerges Hester Prynne with a scarlet letter embroidered upon her breast. This red color, symbolic of passion, is repeated throughout the narrative in Pearl's clothing and the meteor of Chapter X.
At the ending of the novel, Hawthorne intrudes as the author in Chapter XXIV when he directly states his moral lesson,
Among many morals which press upon us..., we put only this into a sentence:--"Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world,..some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!"
His pedantic and interpretive style continues in this chapter as he discusses Roger Chillingworth and the Reverend Dimmesdale and other ideas:
Philosophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one happens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the other in a dusky and lurid glow....Leaving this discussion apart, we have a matter of business to communicate to the reader....
With its imagery, symbolism, ambiguity, and stylistic perfection, The Scarlet Letter is a monumental work that exhibits Hawthorne's insight into the human soul.
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