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Scarlet Letter: Flower Symbolism

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Lauren Tacderas

on 10 November 2014

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Transcript of Scarlet Letter: Flower Symbolism

"..the soil that had so early borne the black flower of a civilized society, a prison." (pg. 41)
The negative connotation of the flower is expressed through its representation of the prison. The black flower functions as a symbol of retributive punishment imposed by society. Prison is a smudge upon society and is shown as depressing and dark, hence the black flower. The color black is associated with evil and sin so it is natural that a place that harbors corrupt individual would be represented as a black flower as opposed to the supposed beautiful Puritan Society.
"But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose- bush, covered in this month of June, with its delicate gems..." (pg 42)
The rose bush is used as contrast to the black flower seen previously in ch. 1. As opposed to the dull and plain aesthetic of Puritans the rose bush offers a small but bold, vibrant splash of life. It is also interpreted as a symbol of hope, because it was assumed to be sprouted from Anne Huchinson, a believer of religious freedom. It acts as her last motif of freedom and beauty before being sent to the dark and dreary prison. In a dark society the beautiful roses exist and go against Puritan beliefs.
"..mine was the first wrong when i betrayed thy budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay." (pg 62)
In the text, Chillingworth compares Hester's adulthood as a budding blossom. Like a plucking a flower for its beauty, Chillingworth wedded Hester before she could fully mature and find her own love. When a person sees a beautiful flower they pick and are convinced that it will enhance their lives. Yet, he hindered her from fully blossoming and attempted to keep her with him. He thought that having something fresh and beautiful would alleviate his feeling of wilting, growing old.
"Pearl's aspect was imbued with spell of full scope between the wild-flower prettiness of a peasant-baby, and the pomp, in a little, of an infanct princess." (pg.74)
Unlike the normal Puritan children who were raised through standard Puritan beliefs in a Puritan society, Pearl was raised isolated from the community as a whole aside from her mother, Hester. Similarly to a flower that grows in a forest, Pearl was allowed to grow naturally and let her wild nature shine through. Instead of a domestic flower that has its standard beauty, a wild flower has no boundaries hence its beauty still shines through like Pearl. More often than not the difference of a wild flower proves more beautiful than one that is not.
"If still alive, she must now have been in the flush and bloom of early womanhood." (pg. 204)
Once more womanhood is compared to a flower, but in this case, with Pearl, the 'flower' was able to fully blossom. As opposed to Hester who was plucked early while she was still budding, Pearl was allowed to fully bloom. Her womanhood is cued when the flower bloom hence the depiction of her early womanhood. Once Pearl left the town she could fully bloom and reach her womanhood that Puritan beliefs would have oppressed. When a flower is left alone it is able to reach a beaity that is often stopped when it is picked. Pearl's flower was never disturbed, plucked so she matured charmingly.
"The flowers appeared to know it..and another whispered, as she passed, "Adorn thyself with me, thou beautiful child, adorn thyself with me!" (pg 161))
Since Pearl was born out of wedlock she was seen as unholy and excluded from society, thus isolating her from civilized society. Pearl creates a bond with nature because it is also seen as uncivilized . The forest offers Pearl comfort, hope and place to grow. In this scene the flowers act as her friends and shower her with praises, calling her beautiful. In opposition to the Puritans who deem Pearl a witch-baby, the forest with its floral scenery see Pearl as a graceful youth.
"But how strangely beautiful she looks, with those wild flowers in her hair! It is as if one of the fairies," (pg. 163)
Pearl's existence comes in conflice with all of the Puritan ethics. She was assumed to be a child of Satan, which implied that she was to be disfigured, unintelligent or was possessed by Satan. Yet Pearl was gorgeous, she had sharp mind and there was no actual proof that she was a devil child. In this chapter it reiterates how conflicting Pearl's beauty is to the point where it doesn't seem natural. Rather than being a part of Puritan society, Pearl is a dweller of the forest, cut off from society. Pearl contrasts the Puritans definition of beauy, even her mother remarks how otherworldly Pearl's beauty is.
"..the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses, that grew by the prison-door." (pg. 90)
In the previous chapters the roses by the prison door represented freedom and hope from a woman, Ann Huchinson, who went against Puritan beliefs. This symbolism can be applied to Pearl, because her whole existence conflicts with Puritan ideals. She was conceived through adultery and seen as a sin by Puritans, just as Huchinson's argument for free religion was a sin to Puritans. Pearl recognizes that society is rejecting except she accepts it. Her beauty shines through her resistance of the dull Puritan world, like Huchinson who sprouted the rose bush out of her resistance.
"The dress, so proper was it to little Pearl, seemed an affluence...or the painted glory from the leaf of a bright flower." (pg. 178)
Pearl's fashion, as created by her mother, is an embodiment of the "a", a symbol that doesn't adhere to Puritan society. As opposed to the typical gray, dreary garments of usual Puritan children, Peal is dressed in a colorful wardrobe. This visually explains that Pearl is unlike the other children. However, this difference only enhances her beauty. She is like the one bloomed rose in the midst of a dying meadow.
"Pearl?-Ruby, rather!-or Coral-or Red Rose, at the very least, judging from thy hue!" (pg 88)
It is remarked that Pearl's name doesn't comply to the devil child she is. A Pearl is pure and white, having an iridescent shine, Wilson claims that a name that conforms to the color red would suit Pearl more. He throws names such as Coral, Ruby and Red Rose, all of which fall under the scarlet color scheme. This references to the scarlet letter sin committed by Hester, of which Pearl should also be affected by. The red rose reference can also imply the meaningful and deep love that Dimmesdale and Hester felt for one another and thus created Pearl. Hester's undying love for Dimmesdale is seen through Pearl and the fact that Pearl's father is never revealed by the Pearl or Hester.
In "The Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes the flower as a repeating symbol in the novel
The context of the flower varied per character, hence it could represent purity and sin
With Hester and Chillingworth the flower was black, therefore the plant had a negative connotation
Whereas with Pearl the flower represented beauty and showed her as innocent and charming
Scarlet Letter: Flower Symbolism
By: Lauren Tacderas
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