Is allusion used in The Scarlet Letter?I'm doing a book report on "The Scarlet Letter" and I need to use three different literary terms and allusion is one of them. Does anyone know of any allusion...

Is allusion used in The Scarlet Letter?

I'm doing a book report on "The Scarlet Letter" and I need to use three different literary terms and allusion is one of them. Does anyone know of any allusion used in this novel? Please help me!

Thank you!

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are several historical allusions in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.  For instance,

  • The Custom House alluded to in the Preface is, indeed, a real building where Hawthorne worked. 
  • The character of the governor's sister is modeled after a real person
  • A real person, Richard Bellingham, who came to America in 1634 and was elected as governor of the English colony in 1641, 1654, and 1655 is alluded to with the character of Governor Bellingham.
  • Representative of the actual historical figure Ann Hibbins, who was executed for witchcraft in 1656, the sister of the governor, who is also a witch, Mistress Hibbins makes several appearances in the narrative.
  • The Reverend Wilson is a character modeled upon John Wilson, a minister who came to America in 1630. He was a strong figure of Puritan authority and intolerance.
vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Allusions -- especially to the Bible -- appear frequently in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter. Other kinds of allusions also appear. Many of them are discussed in detail in a book by Richard Kopley titled The Threads of the Scarlet Letter, which has been described by its publisher (The University of Delaware Press) as follows:

The Threads of The Scarlet Letter offers new discoveries regarding the origins of Hawthorne's masterpiece, as well as critical interpretations based on these discoveries. Relying on a blend of close reading, biographical analysis, and archival research, this book demonstrates anew the power of traditional scholarship. The Threads of The Scarlet Letter illuminates Hawthorne's transformation of Poe's celebrated tale "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Lowell's long-neglected poem "A Legend of Brittany" and, identifying the hitherto-unknown author of the seminal narrative "The Salem Belle," investigates Hawthorne's brilliant borrowing from that novel as well. The present volume argues that Hawthorne repeatedly attenuated his sources, but also allowed sufficient detail to permit their recognition. Furthermore, this volume elaborates Hawthorne's reworking of formal traditions inThe Scarlet Letter—traditions that importantly clarify the meaning of the whole. The Scarlet Letter is shown to be a complex rendering of man's fall and redemption, and a triumphant assertion of literary vocation. The Threads of The Scarlet Letter includes a useful bibliographical overview of the history of the study of the origins of Hawthorne's greatest work. Richard Kopley is Associate Professor of English for Penn State DuBois and Head of the Division of English for Penn State Commonwealth College.

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