A Pattern Of Imagery In The Scarlet Letter And The Tempest
In " The Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel Hawthorne, like Shakespeare in" The Tempest", used imagery to support his theme. The main theme of the Hawthorne's novel was the unrelenting and unchanging attitude of the Puritans. Hawthorne used the letter as well as the prison scene to strengthen his theme. Shakespeare, who did not emphasize a specific theme in "The Tempest", seemed to portray Prospero as a supreme being who could be affected by no one. Shakespeare uses countless images throughout the book including those of the magic books as well as the idea that Prospero seems to be in control at all times. Hawthorne and Shakespeare both use a pattern of imagery in their works to strengthen the theme of their respective works.
The most evident piece of imagery used by Hawthorne is that of the letter which is a punishment for adultery, and serves a purpose for the Puritans. The letter reminds the other men and women of the crime of adultery and the punishment of committing such a crime. It symbolizes how the Puritans are unrelenting, and unforgiving. In administering the punishment, the Puritans do not take into account the reasons for the crime, nor do they consider what this punishment will do to Hester. In punishing Hester with the scarlet letter, they have stereotyped her as an adulteress and to some, such as Pearl she is unrecognizable without the letter. The following passage shows how Pearl is unable to recognize her own mother without the letter.
"I see what ails the child" whispered Hester to the clergyman, and turning pale in spite of a strong effort to conceal her trouble and annoyance. "Children will not abide any, the slightest, change in the accustomed aspect of things that are daily before their eyes. Pearl misses something which she has always seen me wear."
Because of a change of appearance in her mother, Pearl is unwilling to recognize her mother. The idea that her mother must wear the letter at all times has been planted in the heads of all the townspeople, including Pearl. This is typical of Puritans who seem to reiterate what has been previously said. The Puritans were fanatically religious and believed almost everything was evil, hence the unforgiving punishments for all crimes
Another image used by Hawthorne was the prison door. The door is described as old and "marked with other indications of age". The following passage shows the condition that the old door was in: "The rust on the ponderous ironwork of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World." This supports the same theme of Puritan mentality. Like the rust appears to be the oldest thing in the New World, so are the ideas of the Puritans which are greatly outdated and so obsolete that they were no longer accepted by a vast majority of people in Europe and other parts of the New World. This shows how unchanging the Puritans are. Although people and the world around them were changing, the Puritan ideas and ways of living remained the same.
Hawthorne also uses the rosebush as another image to strengthen the theme. It appears in the same scene as the prison. The following passage describes the rosebush which symbolizes what Puritan society could and was supposed to let us hope, to symbolize some wee moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow." This shows the reader what the Puritan society could have been, if the original goal of a utopia had been achieved. But Hawthorne contrasts this with the prison door which represents the dystopia and unchanging nature of the Puritan society.
Shakespeare in writing " The Tempest" depicted Prospero almost as a god. He has control over the island, its surrounding waters, and the people on the island. Through his magic he can control spirits to perform his every bidding and through his further manipulation of magic he can mold the future into the form he desires. Shakespeare made Prospero into a godlike figure by using imagery of magic. The magic can be interpreted as plain magic or can be interpreted as the powers of god. Shakespeare by giving Prospero magical powers has transformed him into a king of god. The following passage shows the power and the things that Prospero was able to achieve with such power.
" I have bedimmed the noontide sun, called forth the mutinous winds, and twixt the green sea and the azured vault set roaring war to the dread rattling thunder. Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak with his own bolt;"
These things that Prospero boasts of are achievements of god. Through such manipulations of magic Prospero is made to appear as one. He is in control of everything throughout the play and not at one time does he appear as if he does not know what is going around him.
Prospero is in definite control over all the people as well as the elements of the island. From the start of the play he is depicted as in control and as someone who will make the situation work our the way he wants to. By administering punishments according to the severity of the crime, Prospero again appear fair, just and godlike. The punishments administered to Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban are in to way as severe as those administered to Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian who banished Prospero from Milan. Alonso was punished with the death of his son, Ferdinand (who did not really die) and perhaps received the worst punishment of all. Shakespeare, though imagery of the achievements and punishments of Prospero has portrayed him as a kind of god.
In " The Scarlet Letter" and " The Tempest", Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Shakespeare both use specific imagery to reinforce their themes. Hawthorne uses the letter itself and contrasts between the prison and the rosebush nearby to reinforce the theme of Puritan mentality. Shakespeare on the other hand, uses Prospero's actions to reinforce the theme that Prospero is a sort of god or at least has godlike powers. Both authors use patterns of imagery to reinforce their themes in their book or novel.