Symbolism in The Scarlet LetterDrapery/Curtains Sareen Arakelian Mrs. Halajian AP English
Dictionary Definition of Drapery • A curtain (in the US, also known as a drape or drapery) is a piece of cloth intended to block or obscure light. • A piece of cloth hung at a window, in a doorway, or around a bed, usually for privacy or to exclude light. • [13th century. Via French< late Latin cortina, translating Greek aulaia]
Symbolism of Curtains • A curtain is something that acts as a barrier or screen to divide, protect, or conceal something. • A symbol of separation • Curtains give a penetration of mystery
Examples of curtain use in other texts • “When he had turned the corner of the gallery, the distant gleam of the air-hole disappeared, the curtain of obscurity fell back over him, and again became blind.” (Les Miserables) • In this passage the character, Jean Valjean, is blinded from the darkness of a tunnel. The “curtain” is closing the light and not letting him see the path that he is going. In a sense the darkness is hiding his destination.
Book Example # 1 • At one extremity, this spacious room was lighted by the windows of the two towers, which formed a small recess on either side of the portal. At the other end, though partly muffled by a curtain,it was more powerfully illuminated by one of those embowed half windows… (“The Governor’s Hall” page 86) _ The room / Bellingham may be hiding something from Hester _ Hester and Pearl were in the governor’s room because they wanted to hear the verdict if Hester may be able to keep Pearl.
Book Example # 2 • The shadow of the curtain fell on Hester Prynne, and partially concealed her. “What have we here?” said Governor Bellingham, looking at surprise at the scarlet figure before him. (“The Elf-Child and the Minister” page 91) _ The Governor wonders what Hester wants from him _ The curtain hides Hester’s face and gives her mysteriousness
Book Example # 3 • The young minister, on ceasing to speak, had withdrawn a few steps from the group, and stood with his face partially concealed in the heavy folds of the window curtain; while the shadow of his figure, which the sunlight cast upon the floor, was tremulous with the vehemence of his appeal.(“The Elf Child and the Minister” page 96)
_ Dimmesdale hides himself from Chillingworth, Bellingham, and Wilson, and he has a bonding moment with his daughter Pearl • By hiding behind the curtain, Dimmesdale is showing how he is hiding from the truth. • Dimmesdale = Pearl’s father • By hiding from behind the curtain, Dimmesdale shows the mysteriousness of the secret bond between him and Pearl. • The curtain that hides the light from coming through a window is like the curtain hiding people from the truth.
Book Example # 4 • The motherly care of the good widow assigned to Mr. Dimmesdale a front apartment, with a sunny exposure, and heavy window- curtains to create a noontide shadow, when desirable. (“The Leech” page 104) _ about the home that Dimmesdale and Chillingworth were going to occupy together. _ The house would give both men the opportunity to contemplate sin and death. _ the curtains can hide the truth whenever they want to be left alone. _ Truth = Dimmesdale’s adultery and Chillingworth’s revenge.
Book Example # 5 • Her final employment was to gather sea- weed, of various kinds, and make herself a scarf, or mantle, and a head-dress, and thus assume the aspect of a little mermaid. She inherited her mother’s gift for devising drapery and costume.(“Hester and Pearl” page 147) • _ By the sea, Peal pretends she is a mermaid and she writes the letter “A” on her bosom to imitate the letter “A” that her mother has on her chest.
_ Like her mother, she is talented in her needlework _ The needlework is how Hester hides from her problems, and thus Pearl also is able to hide within her mother’s problems. _ Problems = Hester’s adultery and how Pearl is born because of Hester’s sin.
Book Example # 6 • Thus the night fled away, as if it were a winged steed, and he careering on it; morning came, and peeped blushing through the curtains; and at last sunrise threw a golden beam into the study, and laid it right across the minister’s bedazzled eyes.(“ The Minister in a Maze” page 185) _ An open curtain allows light to come into the room. _ The light = the truth _ Dimmesdale write a new and improved sermon for election day. _ At this point Dimmesdale’s health is very poor because of how he has never revealed the truth about the adultery that he has committed.
Importance of Curtains in The Scarlet Letter • Hester Prynne: Hester encounters curtains opening and closing numerous times. The curtains symbolize how she is hiding the truth – the name of Pearl’s father and the name of her husband. Also, the curtain over Hester’s face gives her a sense of mysteriousness. • Robert Chillingworth: The curtains show how Chillingworth is hiding from the entire society the fact that he’s Hester’s long lost husband.
Dimmesdale: Being the young minister of the Puritan society, Dimmesdale tries very hard to conceal the truth that he is Pearl’s father and that he has committed adultery. Not expressing the truth leads to Dimmesdale’s death. • Pearl: Pearl is greatly affected with the truth that is hidden from her. Because her mother does not reveal the significance of the scarlet letter to Pearl, the young girl is obsessed with knowing about the mysterious scarlet letter.