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Copy of Rhetorical Analysis of The Scarlet Letter

Analysis of at least five rhetorical devices in the Scarlet Letter with examples.

Carla Batchelor

on 21 May 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Rhetorical Analysis of The Scarlet Letter

Rhetorical Devices in The Scarlet Letter And one more thing... Mood
In The Scarlet Letter, the mood alters the power behind the plot. The tone that Hawthorne writes with controls the story more than what he writes because the tone defines the characters' emotions, and how Hester, Pearl, Arthur, and Roger feel defines how they affect one another. Without the melancholy mood that surrounds Dimmesdale or the hateful mood found with the townspeople, the book wouldn't be the same. Metaphor
With metaphors in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne allows the reader to understand the characters and their relationships with one another without explicitly stating what he (or rather the narrator) thinks about them. The subtlety with which metaphors describe characters works in the book to support the point of view. The narrator chooses when to be objective, and these metaphors help show readers what point of view is currently being taken. Introduction
In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses rhetorical devices originally to imply character traits and relationships, hint at his opinions about society, and underscore the plot for the reader's enjoyment. With his effective use of mood, metaphor, point of view, setting, symbolism, and theme, Hawthorne adds depth to the novel that gives it meaning beyond the mere story that it tells. This is what makes the book worth reading, and this is why we read it yet today. Setting
Hawthorne often uses setting in The Scarlet Letter to support the tone. Where a scene is located and the metaphorical significance of that location affect how the reader interprets the events that take place there. The three most important locations in the novel are the dark forest, the critical market-place, and the shameful scaffold. The scaffold is different, though, because its significance changes throughout the story as the tone does. Symbolism
The symbols in The Scarlet Letter allow the reader to make connections from the novel to the outside world, making the book more than just a story. Symbols like the scarlet letter and the brook have larger meanings because they are meant to be interpreted as more than just objects in the story. With symbolism, Hawthorne makes comments about our society, telling the truth of what he wishes to say with his book. Societal Right vs. Personal Right: "The judgment of God is on me," answered the conscience-stricken priest. "It is too mighty for me to struggle with!" "Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it."

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 93). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-pern, and such unsightly vegetation, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilised society, a prison.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 20). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The diction used with the words "ugly," "unsightly," and "black" set the mood as dark and grotesque.
This mood is specific to within Boston and the Puritan society.
This mood sets up the book as filled with pain, loneliness, and hate. He had been driven hither by the impulse of that Remorse which dogged him everywhere, and whose own sister and closely linked companion was that Cowardice which invariably drew him back, with her tremulous gripe, just when the other impulse had hurried him to the verge of a disclosure.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 68). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. Words such as "dogged," "Cowardice," and "gripe," Hawthorne sets the mood as pained, somber, and tired.
This emotion surrounds Dimmesdale throughout the novel until the very end.
In The Scarlet Letter, this mood defines Dimmesdale and his crippling guilt, which is a critical aspect to the book. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 121). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The complex mood is set in this sentence by the words "grief," "sympathies," and "battle."
On this occasion, the tone is more complicated than others in the story. With Pearl, there is sadness coexisting with hope, which is precisely what this mood expresses.
This mood implies the inner workings and desires of Pearl. She is sad due to her public separation from Dimmesdale, yet hopeful that in the future, they can be together. The Market-Place: Infamy was babbling around her in the public market-place. For her kindred, should the tidings ever reach them, and for the companions of her unspotted life, there remained nothing but the contagion of her dishonour; which would not fail to be distributed in strict accordance and proportion with the intimacy and sacredness of their previous relationship.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 54). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. Conclusion
The Scarlet Letter was made into more than a story with its rhetorical devices and figurative language. They transformed the text into an allegory in itself that made the novel memorable beyond just a plotline. With the many layers of meaning created using these literary tools, Hawthorne makes the novel into a strongly withstanding story open to many interpretations. The novel was bittersweet, with tragedy and joy, much like the the symbol itself, the great... Theme
The Scarlet Letter has many significant themes that take the story from the page to the real world. These themes translate to social comments and lessons that Hawthorne believes in. Themes such as public guilt vs. private guilt, societal correctness vs. personal correctness, and perception vs. reality juxtapose something with which Hawthorne agrees with something with which Hawthorne disagrees, showing readers how he believes that they should act. Point of View
In The Scarlet Letter, point of view is changed to underscore the mood. When Chillingworth is referred to as "the noble physician," the tone is lightened because the point of view is taken from a townsperson or someone who doesn't know him well and there is no added element of evil to the scene. The point of view in The Scarlet Letter is the lense through which the reader can view the book. She doubted not that the continual presence of Roger Chillingworth--the secret poison of his malignity, infecting all the air about him--and his authorised interference, as a physician, with the minister's physical and spiritual infirmities--that these bad opportunities had been turned to a cruel purpose.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 92). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The mother's impassioned state had been the medium through which were transmitted to the unborn infant the rays of its moral life; and, however white and clear originally, they had taken the deep stains of crimson and gold, the fiery lustre, the black shadow, and the untempered light of the intervening substance.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (pp. 40-41). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This metaphor compares Hester to a dark lense that Pearl sees the world through.
This means that Pearl sees things darker than most children would because everything she knows is censored through her somber mother.
The significance of this metaphor is that it partially describes the relationship between Hester and Pearl and implies some of the reason that Pearl acts the way that she does. Her matronly fame was trodden under all men's feet.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 54). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This metaphor compares Hester's position in the town to dirt, stating that others walk all over her.
This explains that she isn't thought very well of in society, and implies that she is being taken advantage of by the other people in the town.
Hawthorne uses this metaphor to explain in more detail the relationship between Hester and her fellow Bostoners.
This metaphor compares Chillingworth to a poison that is infecting Dimmesdale and everything around him.
This comparison means that Chillingworth is taking the life from Dimmesdale by torturing him using Dimmesdale's guilt as a weapon.
This metaphor's significance is that it explains the parasitic relationship between the pastor and physician. It also shows that the current point of view being taken is that of the narrtor and not that of a townsperson. He stood, at this moment, on the very proudest eminence of superiority, to which the gifts or intellect, rich lore, prevailing eloquence, and a reputation of whitest sanctity, could exalt a clergyman in New England's earliest days, when the professional character was of itself a lofty pedestal.Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 118). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This metaphor compares a person's career to that person's social position in society.
This means that a person who has a high-level career in society also has most people in that society thinking well of him or her.
The significance of this comparison is that it shows how the Puritan society finds the people that it reveres, thus explaining why most of the townspeople act the way that they do. He groped along as stealthily, with as cautious a tread, and as wary an outlook, as a thief entering a chamber where a man lies only half asleep--or, it may be, broad awake--with purpose to steal the very treasure which this man guards as the apple of his eye.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 59). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This quote is from the point of view of Hester or the all-seeing narrator.
This point of view allows the readers to see all of the characters (in this case, Roger Chillingworth) as they are.
The tone is darkened by this point of view because the readers are let in on the dark secrets that the main characters have, which involve pain and revenge. Their immediate posterity, the generation next to the early emigrants, wore the blackest shade of Puritanism, and so darkened the national visage with it, that all the subsequent years have not sufficed to clear it up. We have yet to learn again the forgotten art of gaiety.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 110). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This point of view is that specifically of the narrator.
The narrator's subjective point of view allows the reader to remember that these aren't just facts being regurgitated, this is a story being told, which adds to the emotion behind The Scarlet Letter.
The tone is darkened by the honesty with which the narrator portrays Puritanism, and the somewhat biased point of view makes it seem more real, as if a real person is telling you this story. Thus the Puritan elders in their black cloaks, starched bands, and steeple-crowned hats, smiled not unbenignantly at the clamour and rude deportment of these jolly seafaring men; and it excited neither surprise nor animadversion when so reputable a citizen as old Roger Chillingworth, the physician, was seen to enter the market-place in close and familiar talk with the commander of the questionable vessel.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 111). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. This quote is from the point of view of the townspeople or the magistrates (people who don't truly know who the core characters of The Scarlet Letter are).
This point of view allows the readers to see Chillingworth and the other main characters as the rest of the world does. It also reminds readers of the dramatic irony that is present throughout the book.
The tone is lightened and normalized whenever this point of view is taken throughout the book because, from this point of view, nothing is majorly amiss with Dimmesdale or Chillingworth, the darker characters of the book. The Forest: The dark, inscrutable forest open to her, where the wildness of her nature might assimilate itself with a people whose customs and life were alien from the law that had condemned her.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 35). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The forest is represented as the place of sin in The Scarlet Letter. Mistress Hibbins claims it as her domain, Chillingworth treks through it regularly, and Pearl was probably conceived there.
The forest has the significance of being more than just the evil place, but also being the place of freedom from public judgement. Hester and Dimmesdale meet there, discuss their future together, and decide to leave forever. After visiting the forest for the last time, Dimmesdale is enlighted, invigorated, and lively because he is free. The market-place is where the Puritans reside during the day, enacting their harsh laws and passing judgement when no judgement is necessary because the society is in no way affected by the "sins" that people have committed.
The market-place is significant because it is where Hester is forced to face her punishement every day. It is one thing to be punished on a big scaffold as a one time deal, but the market-place is where Hester is forced to be put on a "stage" of sorts every single day. Scaffold: With almost a serene deportment, therefore, Hester Prynne passed through this portion of her ordeal, and came to a sort of scaffold, at the western extremity of the market-place. It stood nearly beneath the eaves of Boston's earliest church, and appeared to be a fixture there.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 23). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. At the beginning of the book, this is the town's place of punishment and shame. Hester is forced upon the scaffold to be ridiculed and made regretful of her decisions.
In the middle of the book, the scaffold is a place of sadness and pain. Dimmesdale, in the middle of the night, climbed the scaffold and broke down under the weight of his self-inflicted guilt.
By the end of the book, the scaffold represents redemption and freedom. Hester, Arthur, and Pearl ascend the steps and relieve themselves of their secrets, freeing themselves from guilt, society, and Chillingworth.
The scaffold is significant because it is the central frame that the story is written around. It signals change for all who climb its steps. Pearl: And there stood the minister, with his hand over his heart; and Hester Prynne, with the embroidered letter glimmering on her bosom; and little Pearl, herself a symbol, and the connecting link between those two. They stood in the noon of that strange and solemn splendour, as if it were the light that is to reveal all secrets, and the daybreak that shall unite all who belong to one another.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 71). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. Pearl symbolizes living sin that changes and develops a life of its own. She also symbolizes the great price paid when one commits a sin. The text mentions that the reason she was named "Pearl" was because she was the only treasure that Hester got in exchange for her entire life because of her sin.
This symbol is significant because it shows that sin has longevity, and it often comes at a high price. When a person messes up, he or she often can't undue the mistake, so he or she must live with that sin for the rest of his or her life. Scarlet letter early in the book: Such an interview, perhaps, would have been more terrible than even to meet him as she now did, with the hot mid-day sun burning down upon her face, and lighting up its shame; with the scarlet token of infamy on her breast;

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 27). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The symbol of the scarlet letter at the book's beginning represents the punishment and public shame that happens as a result of sin. The scarlet letter keeps Hester isolated from the others of the town because they view her as a weakness in there society.
The significance of the scarlet letter symbol for Hester at the book's start is that it emphasizes the cruelty of the judgement of society toward public sin. This is a central theme of the novel, and without the scarlet letter, this theme wouldn't be visible. Scarlet letter late in the book: She was self-ordained a Sister of Mercy, or, we may rather say, the world's heavy hand had so ordained her, when neither the world nor she looked forward to this result. The letter was the symbol of her calling.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 75). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. Later in the book, the scarlet letter comes to be a symbol of redemption. Hester has spent many years numbly doing charitable works, so instead of "adulterer", many of the townspeople interpret the "A" to mean "Abel", which implied her moral strength.
This changed meaning is significant because it shows that public reputations aren't set in stone, a small lesson of The Scarlet Letter. Hester's crime of commision ended up doing less harm than Dimmesdale's crime of omission, which brings up another moral of this story: honesty. Brook: Yonder she is, standing in a streak of sunshine, a good way off, on the other side of the brook. So thou thinkest the child will love me?"

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 97). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The brook symbolizes the division between Pearl and Arthur and, by connection, Hester and Arthur. In this quote, Pearl is on one side of the brook, and Arthur is on the other. In order for them to be together, one of them must cross. This means that either Pearl has to accept the situation as it is, or Arthur has to announce publicly that he is her father.
The brook is significant as a signal because it foreshadows Arthur's upcoming decision. Also, it makes the differences in the two characters more clear. Public Guilt vs. Private Guilt: The sainted minister in the church! The woman of the scarlet letter in the marketplace! What imagination would have been irreverent enough to surmise that the same scorching stigma was on them both!Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 117). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. With this theme, Hawthorne juxtaposes Hester's and Arthur's situations with their guilt. Hester's stems from the scarlet letter and her public admission of guilt. Arthur's stems from the opaqueness of his sin and fatherhood.
The significance of this theme is that Hester uses the comparison to show that admission of one's shortfallings and mistakes is better or at least no worse than keeping it a secret. This theme juxtaposes what the Puritan society deems correct with what Hester thinks is correct, expressing how different they are. Arthur struggles with this difference throughout the entire novel because he can't decide which is the correct path. In the end, though, he decides to do what is personally right, overriding the knowledge that his life will be publically shamed forever.
Societal correctness vs. personal correctness is significant in The Scarlet Letter because with it, Hawthorne expresses his observation that a difference exists, and he shows his opinion and justifies it. If Arthur would have just done personal right as Hester was forced to do, he would have been happier in the long run. Therefore, society and its judgement are flawed, which is exactly what Hawthorne hopes to convey with this theme. Hawthorne wants the reader to agree with what he agrees with, and this theme accomplishes that. Perception vs. Reality: “I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am! And Satan laughs at it!"Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1992-06-01). The Scarlet Letter (p. 91). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. The theme of perception vs. reality is present in the previous quote because Dimmesdale is discussing the contrast between what he is and what people believe that he is. Hawthorne uses Dimmesdale to emphasize this theme by having Dimmesdale feel extreme guilt because he feels that he is lying by allowing this difference to exist. The fact that this theme exists with Dimmesdale shows that he hasn't been honest.
This theme is significant because it not only provides a conflict central to the novel's plot, but it also allows Hawthorne to once again speak through the pages directly to his readers. With this theme, he states that honesty is the best policy, and when it isn't followed, the person will usually suffer.
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