The Scarlet Letter

Rosebush and Black Weeds: Botanical Metaphors in The Scarlet Letter

Nature. It is a word that seems so expansive and all-inclusive. Within a novel, elements of nature and setting often become so expected and mundane that they are easily glossed over in order to get to the "more important" elements of a story-the plot, characters, and events. Occasionally, however, an author makes calculating and blatant references to the setting, thus thrusting the background into the foreground. Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, several plants serve to symbolize characters in their actions as well as in their attachment to the community-a representation nearly unfeasible were they described in mere words. In likening Hester in the first chapter to the rosebush that grows just beyond the prison door, Hawthorne implies that Hester possesses all qualities that are commonly associated with the flower without ever having to reveal her personality through conventional forms of exposition. Furthermore, Hawthorne proceeds to compare Dimmesdale to black weeds growing from a grave just outside his window. Subtly different than the comparisons for Hester and Dimmesdale, the author chooses a unique flower to exemplify the enigmatic Pearl-the aquatic eelgrass. In using this symbolism,...

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