Scarlett Letter 1-4 Passage, Close-Reading

The passage I chose is on page 481-482, “Had there been a papist… infant that she had borne.”


The author describes Hester Prynne saying, “with the infant at her bosom… the image of Divine Maternity” (481) relating her to the virgin Mary, and her child to Jesus. As well as the infant being at her bosom so was the scarlet letter, two signs of her disgrace, yet one of those signs in resemblant of an infant christ. The author also refers to her as “this beautiful woman, so picturesque in her ¬†attire and mein”(481), yet her deeds are considered so “ugly”, causing a stark contrast to the maternity of Mary. He refers to a “papist among the crowd of puritans” not being there, to show that all in the crowd had the same view of things and could not see the resemblance to an image of Mary and Christ. The puritans had founded their colonies to get away from the Catholic Church and solely practice their one form of Christianity, but the author is showing the importance of a mix of views through his diction here. The author says “so many illustrious painters”(482) have used this image of mother and child to symbolize purity and “sinless motherhood”(482), but here it is showing “the deepest sin in the most sacred quality of human life.”, because a baby is supposed to be the purest and most innocent form of life. The author is demonstrating a juxtaposition of good and evil through the same image of mother and child. He refers to the world as being “darker” because of this baby’s birth out of wedlock, serving as a way to show the contrast of light and dark as well as good and evil.hester

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