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The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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A fear of darkness is built into mankind. It is an innate sense of fear associated with the unknown dating back thousands of years. The Scarlet Letter defines the sources of darkness through a thematic symbol: black. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the color as a device to explore the inherent idea of black being a symbol of darkness. Characters, settings, items, and even times of day are associated with the onyx hue as the story progresses. Black corresponds with with the devil, also known as the Black Man, corruption, and evil. Black doesn’t just symbolize darkness as a whole—it splits into a multifaceted beast encompassing sin, society, and an all-absorbing power. The evident symbolism of black as a representation of sin appears throughout the romance. The color is connected to those who took part in the act deserving of the scarlet letter, as well as those who are associated with them. The connection between blackness and sin is immediately and blatantly made when Dimmesdale says, "I have sought, I say, to persuade this godly youth, that he should deal with you, here in the face of Heaven, and before these wise and upright rulers, and in hearing of all the people, as touching the vileness and blackness of your sin” (Hawthorne 60). The idea of blackness, or darkness, representing sin is a biblical concept, making it plausible that such a statement would be so widely and easily accepted in a deeply religious, Puritan society. But Hawthorne weaves the web of sable deeper into
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