Darci FordMrs. HortonEnglish III-APMonday, January 18, 1999Nathaniel Hawthorne has a sufficient reason for repeatedly making reference to mirrorsthroughout his refined novel, The Scarlet Letter. The use of mirrors in the story serve a beneficialpurpose of giving the reader a window to the characters soul.
The truth is always portrayed inthe authors mirrors; thus, his introspective devices will continuously point out the flaws to whomgazes in it. Hesters A has now become the most noticeable part of not only her physicalfeatures, but her spiritual being. The reflection of Pearl Prynne uncovers her hard shell and bringsout the loneliness, the innocent recklessness, and the wild beauty within her. ReverendDimesdales image only radiates the dark, gloomy truth of his impurities. The looking glassNathaniel Hawthorne places in front of his characters, therefore, focuses on the realms that eachbeholder attempts to hide from the world around them. In chapter two while Hester is standing on the scaffold, she tries to run from reality byreminiscing of her youth.
At that moment, she saw her own face, glowing with girlish beauty,and illuminating all the interior of the dusky mirror in which she had been wont to gaze at it. Sadly, the mirror will never again give Hester that immaculate reflection. Instead, the image willalways resemble that of the breastplate at the governors mansion in chapter seven, owing to thepeculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated andgigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature to her appearance. Ironically, the two symbols of her sin and suffering, the scarlet letter and Pearl, are now the mostsignificant elements of her life. Hester is no longer looked at as a woman in society, and in themirror, she seemed absolutely hidden behind it (the scarlet letter). As for her child, that lookof naughty merriment was likewise reflected in the mirror, with so much breadth and intensity ofeffect, that it made Hester Prynne feel as if it could not be the image of her own child, but of animp who was seeking to mold itself into Pearls shape.
Pearls mischievous looks are magnifiedin the mirroring surface to remind Hester that her child is in fact a part of the punishment of hersin. Once this freakish, elvish cast came into the childs eyes while Hester was looking at herown image in them. . . .
she fancied that she beheld, not her own miniature portrait, but anotherface, in the small black mirror of Pearls eye. It was a face, fiendlike, full of smiling malice, yetbearing the resemblance of features that she had known full well, through seldom with a smile,and never with malice in them. This is another indicator in chapter six that Pearls presencedoes in fact haunt Hester. It also speaks the truth that Roger Chillingworth is not the same manhe once was, and Hester will continue to be haunted by him also. Nathaniel Hawthornes use of mirrors plays a crucial part in portraying the hidden side ofPearl Prynne.
Though Pearl has a reputation to be of witchcraft and gives the reader animpression of being a brat, the child has a very fragile and endearing soul that wanders on theother side of the mirroring surface. In chapter fourteen by the ocean, Pearl came to a full stop,and peeped curiously into a pool, left by the retiring tide as a mirror for Pearl to see her face in. Forth peeped at her, out of the pool, with dark glistening curls around her head and an elf-smilein her eyes, the image of a little maid, whom Pearl, having no other playmate, invited to take herhand and run a race with her. The reflecting pool portrays Pearl as an innocent and beautifulchild who is very lonely. That is very understandable, for Pearl is not like the other children; heronly two friends are nature and her mother, Hester.
In chapter fifteen, Pearl flirted fancifullywith her own image in a pool of water, beckoning the phantom forth, and–as it declinedventure–seeking a passage for herself into its sphere of impalpable earth and unattainable sky. Soon finding however, that either she or the image was unreal, she turned elsewhere for betterpastime. Pearls reflection is very real, and chapter sixteen smoothly continues this concept throughanother body of water–the brook in the forest. Pearl resembled the brook, inasmuch as thecurrent of her life gushed from.
. . . like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancywithout playfulness, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintance and events ofsomber hue. As interpreted through the description of the brook, Pearl lacked many simpleencumbrances growing up, and therefore, lacks sympathy and emotions that numerous individualstake for granted. In chapter nineteen, Pearls alliance to nature is clearly shown as the brookchanced to form a pool, so smooth and quiet that it reflected a perfect image of her little figure,with all the brilliant picturesqueness of her beauty, in its adornment of flowers and wreathedfoliage, but more refined and spiritualized than the reality.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was wise touse the forest brook in relation to Pearl, for she is untamed like the forest. Branching from thatwild gift within Pearl, the wrath she is compelled to carry is also lustered through the brook thatflows beneath her. Seen in the brook, once more, was the shadowy wrath of Pearls image,crowned and girdled with flowers, but stamping its foot, wildly gesticulating, and, in the midst ofit all, still pointing its small forefinger at Hesters bosom! The speculum reveals the hard truththat Pearl is a part of the scarlet letter, and that she feels emotionally nonexistent when sherealizes her mother had abandoned the emblem on the ground. The weak mortality of Reverend Dimesdale is also depicted by Nathaniel Hawthornesexercise of mirrors throughout the novel. In chapter eleven, Arthur is desperate to flush away hissins and absorb righteousness back into his soul. He kept vigils, likewise, night after night.
. . . sometimes, viewing his own face in a looking glass, by the most powerful light which he couldthrow upon it. Unfortunately, Nathaniel Hawthornes mirrors show no mercy.
He thustypified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify, himself. Littledoes Arthur know that the looking glass is only functions as a tool to represent truth, and inactuality, the reverend is not acquitted of his sins. The very limited light that shines onto thelooking glass is used to burn deep into the ministers soul, grasp the shameful secret he hideswithin his heart, and shine the consequences back in his face over and over again. In theselengthened vigils, his brain often reeled and visions seemed to flit before him perhaps seendoubtfully, and by a faint light of their own, in the remote dimness of the chamber, or morevividly, and close beside him, within the looking glass. Reverend Dimesdale tried to overcomethese ghastly images, but he couldnt fight the fact that they were, in one sense, the truest andmost substantial things which the poor minister now dealt with.
The looking glass franklyreveals that Reverend Dimesdales existence now relies on the anguish in his inmost soul. Within The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne analyzes his main characters distinctionsthrough his use of mirrors. By using this device of imagery, the reader of the novel can easilygrasp Nathaniel Hawthornes dark opinions of the world, man, society and their relationships toeach other. Most importantly, the author wants to exhibit to the reader the close relationshipbetween good and evil, and the importance in telling the truth under all circumstances. NathanielHawthorne has done a wonderful job in this piece of literature by referring to mirrors as a tool todig into the truth of the human heart.