1. “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony” (Hawthorne 50).
This quote describes the most significant motif, the scarlet letter. It describes the complexity of the scarlet letter itself which foreshadows the numerous meaning the letter will have to various different people. This quote also suggests that the scarlet letter, being as beautiful as it is described, should be almost a luxury to wear, rather than a burden. 2. “As he spoke, he laid his long forefinger on the scarlet letter, which forthwith seemed to scorch on Hester’s breast, as if it had been red-hot.
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He noticed her involuntary gesture, and smiled. ‘Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women,-in the eyes of him whom thou didst call thy husband,-in the eyes of yonder child! And, that thou mayest live, take off this draught'” (Hawthorne 68). This passage demonstrates the first of many meanings of motif, the scarlet letter. The meaning and concept described is the most basic and obvious meaning to the letter. The quote shows that the scarlet letter stands for adulterer.
Although the meaning of the letter changes throughout the book, the original meaning for the A represents Hester’s punishment 3. “But did your reverence hear of the portent that was seen last night? -a great red letter in the sky,-the letter A which we interpret to stand for Angel. For as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some notice thereof” (Hawthorne 145). This segment describes one of the many meanings of the main motif, the scarlet letter.
The significance of this passage is to show that other townspeople, after seeing it in the sky, associate the letter with an angel rather than an adulterer. 4. “…. many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 148). This passage not only shows how the most prominent motif has changed from first being a negative thing, to a positive thing. It also demonstrates the strong correlation between how Hester acts and how others view the scarlet letter.
This is shown here because when Hester shows how she cares for Boston and the townspeople, people begin to see the letter to mean able, rather than adulterer. 5. “‘On a Field, Sable, the Letter A, Gules'” (Hawthorne 240). This final passage on the motif the scarlet letter itself is signifying the never-ending concept of the scarlet letter. It shows that even in death, Hester will be forever marked by her punishment of adultery. The quote demonstrates that she must continue her burden of wearing the scarlet letter even beyond her final breath. . “Then, after long search into the minister’s dim interior, and turning over many precious materials, in the shape of high aspirations and the welfare of his race, warm love of souls, pure setiments and natural piety strengthened by thought and study, and illuminated my revelation,-all of which invaluable gold was all rubbish to the seeker,-he would turn back discouraged and begin his quest towards another point” (Hawthorne 119). A whole other reoccurring motif in The Scarlet Letter is the meaning behind each main character’s name.
This segment represents a bit about the meaning behind almost all of the main characters, aside from Chillingworth, who is the speaker. It shows how Dimmesdale has a “dim interior,” and how Pearl is “precious materials. ” 7. “…’for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man into a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee, and be once more human? ‘” (Hawthorne 159). This passage describes the motif of meaningful names. This section specifically describes Chillingworth, who actually has the word “chill” directly in the name. A chill is a uncomfortable cold and gruesome feeling.
This feeling is very similar to the feeling Hester receives every time she looks or thinks about her former husband. 8. “Her Pearl! -For so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of her aspect, which had nothing of the calm, white unimpassioned luster that would be indicated by the comparison. But she had named the infant “Pearl,” as being of great price,-purchased with all she had,-her mother’s only treasure! ” (Hawthorne 82). This quote represents how Pearl has a meaningful name and why she received the name that she did. Literally, a pearl is a rare gem found inside the shells of mollusks.
Although beautiful, pearls are difficult to obtain. They are also difficult to match pearls, because each one is different and unique. This shows how unusual and unique Hester’s own daughter is. 9. “It seemed, at this point, as if the minister must leave the remainder of his secret undisclosed. But he fought back the bodily weakness,- and, still more, the faintness of heart,-that was striving for the mastery with him. He threw off all assistance, and stepped passionately foreword a pace before the woman and the child” (Hawthorne 232).
This passage helps to describe the meaning of Dimmesdale’s name. Dimmesdale has the exact word dim in itself. Dim means cloudy or hazy. This name suits Dimmesdale very well because throughout the novel Dimmesdale is very unclear about his feelings about whether or not to confess to his sin, or to live in his guilt. 10. “‘I will not speak! ‘ answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this voice, which she had too surely recognized. ‘And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one! ” (Hawthorne 64).
Hester is the last and final main character who has a meaningful name. Hester is an altered form of the name Ester. Ester was a biblical Jewish queen who stopped the Persians from massacring the Jewish people. Ester is a symbol of strength, similar to the way Hester is a symbol of strength in The Scarlet Letter. Motifs are reoccurring ideas, literary devices, or contrasts that can enhance the overall theme of the novel. In The Scarlet Letter, motifs are extremely present throughout the entire book. The title itself represents a reoccurring motif that is detrimental to the story line.
When combined with foreshadowing and dramatic irony, motifs enhance the readers insight by giving he/she subtle clues as to the significance of the motif, and why it is continuously being brought to the readers attention. One can learn an abundance more from simply watching for motifs and reoccurring themes in novels and discover hidden meanings that are between the lines and the blank ink on the page. Without motifs, The Scarlet Letter would cease to be a novel and have a story, seeing as the whole novel is based around a motif. Motifs add depth and clues to a novel and enhance the enjoyment of a book.