Describe Hawthorne's use of figurative language and sentence structure in chapter 2 of The Scarlet Letter.

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Hawthorne's sentence structure is characteristically complex and/or compound.  He typically employs a profusion of dependent clauses to explicitly describe his subjects, scenes, or symbols.  His treatment of these in this chapter, "The Market-Place," is typical of his writing.

Figuratively, he uses two allusions that help to characterize both the women of the town as well as Hester Prynne.  First, he says that the Puritan women in Boston were very similar to the "man-like Elizabeth," by whom he means Queen Elizabeth I, a monarch who refused to marry and maintained the power and strength most often associated with men.  In saying this, however, Hawthorne is not paying these women a compliment; in fact, he means to criticize their "boldness and rotundity of speech."  On the other hand, he compares Hester to an image of "Divine Maternity," by which he means the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.  It is an ironic allusion, given that Mary's child "was to redeem the world" and this child, the product of a sinful union, will be outcast by the world.  However, it paints Hester in quite a sympathetic and beautiful light. 

Hawthorne also employs a good deal of visual imagery, contrasting Hester's scarlet letter -- "in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread" -- with the "sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats" of the townspeople (on the first page of chapter one).  He also describes Hester's "burning blush," as well as the "dusky mirror" and the "misshapen scholar" with one shoulder higher than the other, from her old life in England.  Such imagery very much helps us to envision and imagine the scenes he describes and see them as vividly as possible.

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The Scarlet Letter

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