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The Scarlet Letter: Passage Analysis (477)

The resilient rose acts as a stark contrast against the “black flower” of a prison, and stands as a symbol of hope. Preceded by dark and ominous descriptions of  death and demise, mention of “a wild rose-bush” immediately acts as a turning point in the themes previously presented. The flower offers “fragrance and fragile beauty” to a criminal facing imminent doom, a small beacon of light and hope in the midst of turmoil. Further, the rose bush outlived the “gigantic pines and oaks that originally overshadowed it,” ironically demonstrating a quality of grit and fortitude in a similarly troublesome situation. The rose connects to a deeply rooted affiliation between the Church and State among Puritans, as the vessel of hope came from God, having “sprung” from “the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson.” Set in New England, the New World appealed to Europeans as a vast brilliance, a land of opportunity and freedom. Upon arrival, life in America was far more difficult and taxing than previously thought, contradicting the notion of American Exceptionalism. The dismal prison symbolizes the dark life and lack of freedom in the Massachusetts Colony, while the vibrant rose beside represents the hope that motivated Europeans to immigrate to New England, as well as symbolizes hope for the future. Just as the New World acted as a beacon of light for lower class Europeans, so too did the rose for discouraged New Englanders. Hawthorne used the United States’ national flower as the “sweet moral blossom” which sprouted a potential for possibilities, planting the seeds for the American Dream.

Published inClose Reading

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