What figurative language is present in chapter 21 of The Scarlet Letter?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this chapter, the narrator refers to Hester as "the people's victim and life-long bond-slave."  This is a metaphor that describes the way Hester feels and has felt for quite a long time; she very much feels victimized by their treatment of her.  Further, Hester's many years spent lonely and victimized lead the narrator to compare those painful years to a "draught of [...] wormwood and aloes," another metaphor to describe the bitterness of Hester's punishment and life since her sin was found out.

Pearl's bright and colorful garments are also compared via metaphor to a "butterfly's wing" or a "bright flower," further strengthening her association with nature.  While Hester's brow is compared to "marble" (another metaphor), Pearl is matched, via simile, with a "bird."  

Pearl also uses personification to describe the "old trees" in the forest, trees which she says "can hear," as well as the sky, which she says can see.  The Puritans, however, are characterized as living a life "tint[ed] [with] sad gray, brown, or black," and the "mood and manners of the age" are described as being of "gray or sable tinge."  These colors are all symbols of austerity, muted emotion, and a certain darkness of character.  

Finally, the space around Hester is described as a "magic circle" into which no one will step, another metaphor: there is no magic, only the ill feelings of the other townspeople.  

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The Scarlet Letter

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