I am doing an essay on the influences of light and dark in The Scarlet Letter. Is there any information or sources that I can use to help me?I am mainly just looking for anything helping to...

I am doing an essay on the influences of light and dark in The Scarlet Letter. Is there any information or sources that I can use to help me?

I am mainly just looking for anything helping to explain the two main differences and purposes of light and dark images in the novel. Thanks!

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The biggest thing you should probably be sure to talk about in this essay is that light tends to be associated with Pearl and darkness tends to be associated with Chillingworth (and Dimmesdale at times, think of his name alone Dimmesdale).  Therefore, light = pure while darkness = evil.  The characters of this novel are meant to be exactly as symbolic as they seem.  Therefore, symbolically, it seems like Pearl is always in the sunshine - or the sunshine tends to follow her.  Contrastly, Chillingworth lurks and hides in and among the shadows and Dimmesdale hides in the darkness of his sin.

A few chapters that you might look to for examples and key quotes are the chapters where Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest and talks to him openly for the first time.  In chapter 16, Hester and Pearl head out into the woods - and the sunshine is moving between patches of trees and clouds.  Pearl comments that the sunshine follows her but will not shine on her mother.

Chapters 8 and 9 have evidence of Chillingworth's progression into more ugliness and more evil, evidenced by descriptions of a dark countenence.  Also notice how Chillingworth lurks in the background of many key scenes - at the Governor's house for example, he is present, though not necessarily active.  These chapters also note Dimmesdale's growing sicker and paler.  The darkness in Dimmesdale is more a matter of the heart - and his own desire to keep his secret.  You could probably describe his as a more spiritual and emotional darkness.

The second link below is a published critical essay that you might be able to refer to as a source outside the text and it contains further ideas about light and darkness.

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Please see the link below for more information:

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

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