How does Hawthorne use rhetorical devices in The Scarlet Letter?

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podunc | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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One powerful literary device used by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter is its chiastic structure. A chiasmus is a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases. For example, JFK's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" is a chiasmus. Hawthorne uses this structure not to order sentences, but to order his entire novel. In other words, the second half of the novel is a mirror image of the first half of the novel through repeated images, plot events, etc. For example, chapters 2 and 24 (the second chapter and the second-to-last chapter) are chiasmic. In chapter 2, Hester stands on the scaffold as the town condems her as guilty, while in chapter 24, Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold and condemns himself.