What are some techniques that Hawthorne uses to develop his characters in The Scarlet Letter?How does Hawthorne develop his characters in The Scarlet Letter?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two techniques Hawthorne uses in developing his characters are symbolism and metaphor. For instance, in Chapter 1, Hawthorne introduces the symbol of the rosebush just before he brings Hester Prynne into the story. Since there is such close proximity and since Hawthorne makes a clear statement that the rosebush is a symbol, the symbolic concept attaches to Hester and renders her a sympathetic character, one with whom we sympathize before we even meet her, thus Hawthorne begins his characterization of Hester through a dramatic representative symbol.

In addition, in Chapter 1 Hawthorne gives an eleborate description of the "weather-stains" of the "beetle-browed" prison-house that is associated quite directly with the founders, the leaders, of the town of Boston, thereby metaphorically standing for them. This metaphoric connection establishes a predisposition in the reader to perceive the leaders of Hester's Boston as being as antiquated as their prison-house. When this metaphor is juxtaposed to (placed next to) Hester's character, as it is in Chapter 1, Hawthorne further develops Hester's character by contrast to the metaphor that defines the town leaders.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question