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Analysis

Literary Devices in The Scarlet Letter

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

The prison door is described as having never known "a youthful era," i.e., innocence (1.2). It’s made of iron and is a little worse for wear, if you catch our drift. Yet, the wild rosebush th...

Setting

In the 17th century in England, the state religion was Church of England, which had broken off from the Roman Catholic Church about 200 years earlier. The Church of England had gotten rid of or ser...

Narrator Point of View

Our narrator is omniscient, all right. Here's a good example:She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast, as intricate and shadowy, as the untamed forest, amid the gl...

Genre

Mystery? Check. Malevolent villain? Check. Quasi-supernatural events, like meteors and bloody markings of uncertain origin? Also check. There may not be a castle or ghost, but we're definitely in f...

Tone

Yeah, that's a lot of tone to pack into one novel, but Hawthorne is a good writer. Check out this sentence from a very early part of the novel:The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human...

Writing Style

Get out your passports: Hawthorne's style is so strange to our modern ear that it's almost like visiting a foreign country. (It was rough going for the time, too; check out a book like Charles Dick...

What’s Up With the Title?

Back in the day (colonial times, that is), law and religion were inseparable, like peanut butter and jelly. When a woman cheated on her husband—even if that husband had been missing for two years...

What's Up With the Ending?

When Chillingworth dies and leaves all his money to Pearl, mom and daughter can finally escape the judgy ways of the Massachusetts Bay colonists. In fact, they've been able to put an entire ocean b...

Tough-o-Meter

Honestly, we were tempted to give this one a 10. No lie: it's a toughie. Check out this sentence:Doomed by his own choice, therefore, as Mr. Dimmesdale so evidently was, to eat his unsavory morsel...

Plot Analysis

GPS, Puritan-StyleWelcome to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It's got everything a thriving colonial town needs: a public square and a prison. Why start us off with a prison? Why not the bustling mar...

Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Rebirth

Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are both Guilty with a capital "G," but only one of them is getting publicly shamed, and—spoiler—it's not the one with the "Reverend" in front o...

Three Act Plot Analysis

Shame, Shame, ShameHester is publicly shamed for her sin but refuses to name her partner-in-crime. Her long-lost husband returns, discovers her adultery, and, not content with having his wife shunn...

Trivia

Hawthorne knew John Milton's Paradise Lost really well—so well that he'd argue with his big sister about the ways in which Satan is portrayed in the poem. Sounds just like our sibling fights...

Steaminess Rating

Despite the sex we're sure Hester Prynne and the Reverend Dimmesdale had, this book is more about the guilt, shame, and suffering than the bodice-ripping and heavy breathing. Definitely PG material...

Allusions

Matthew 13:45-46, the Pearl of Great Price: The reference to the "pearl of great price" (8.16) is an allusion to parable found in the Gospel of Matthew: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a...
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