What Do Windows Symbolize
in The Scarlet Letter?
“ ‘Mother,’said little Pearl, ‘the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because
it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my
bosom yet!’ ‘Nor ever will, my child, I hope,’ said Hester. ‘And why not, mother?’ asked Pearl,
stopping short. . . . ‘Will it not come of its own accord, when I am a woman grown?’ ”
11 AP Language
Derives from the Middle English
vindauga, “eye of the wind”(vindr
= wind + auga = eye).
Mainly used to conceal or to open
for light to shine in.
Windows-What Are They?
In The Scarlet Letter we see windows as
a huge symbol with both negative and
However, why would Nathaniel
Hawthorne use this symbol?
In regards with other works of
literature, do other writers use this
symbol as a tool?
Yes, it is true that other writers use
windows as a symbol, but mainly it has
a positive connotation.
However, windows do have negative
connotations; Windows symbolize an
omen to come or something that might
effect a character drastically.
Now on to the Good
The Scarlet Letter has many
examples of windows; One
of the many examples of
windows used as a positive
connotation are as follows.
“Then, however, there was the
freshness of the passing year on
its exterior, and the cheerfulness,
gleaming forth from the sunny
windows, of a human habitation,
into which death had never
entered” (Pg 85).
More of the Good Stuff…
Another passage that yields
positive connotations are as
“But the child, unaccustomed to the
touch or familiarity of any but her
mother, escaped through the open
window, and stood on the upper step,
looking like a wild tropical bird of
rich plumage, ready to take flight into
the upper air”(Pg 92).
No more Sunshine…
As to all things positive, there are
negatives. In The Scarlet Letter, we see
the antithesis of shadow and light greatly
played with windows.
“The affair being so satisfactorily concluded,
Hester Prynne, with Pearl, departed from the
house. As they descended the steps, it is averred
that the lattice of a chamber-window was thrown
open, and forth into the sunny day was thrust the
face of Mistress Hibbins Governor Bellingham's
bitter-tempered sister, and the same who, a few
years later, was executed as a witch” (Pg 96).
Lachrymose yet Jubilant
As the book progresses, we see that
windows become an even darker
“It was as if a window were thrown
open, admitting a freer atmosphere into
the close and stifled study, where his life
was wasting itself away, amid lamp-
light, or obstructed day-beams, and the
musty fragrance, be it sensual or moral,
that exhales from books” (Pg 102).
What’s the difference?
Okay, when we think of “light” the first
thing we refer to is a holy figure-such
as God. Being a religiously bound book,
your mind should instantly look to
However, there are “dark” passages
which refer to Satan himself or the
coming of death. “Dark” passages could
also describe the social disposition of
(I’m not analyzing “light” and “dark”)
Now how do I know that?
In many texts, writers use
windows as a portal between
worlds. When I say portal I mean
as in two different perspectives of
Also, windows are a way to escape
something or to avoid a problem.
Windows give you a view of the
world as if you are looking from
the “outside in.”
You’ve never thought of
Now, windows are not so physical;
Windows are actually more
metaphysical and spiritual rather than
Windows provide sight into some one’s
mind or actions. Windows allow you to
see things that others can’t. Windows
allow you to be protected from harm
More, More, More!
Fear- “ ‘You speak in riddles,
learned sir,’ said the pale minister,
glancing out of the window.
Sight- “At another window of the
same house, moreover appeared
old Mistress Hibbins, the
Governor’s sister, also with a
lamp, which even thus far off
revealed the expression of her
sour and discontented face.”
Shadowy Light- Maybe it’s
There are many combinations of light and dark
within the book’s bindings. By using antithesis,
Hawthorne establishes a feeling of both bright
light and creeping shadow.
“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 hall
windows which we read of in old books, and
which was provided with a deep and cushion
One more thing!
There are many symbols in this
novel; Many of the symbols, you
might think, are strange and very
weird, but actually they are all
connected. By analyzing all of the
symbols we are able to determine
the true aspects of the scarlet
letter and even The Scarlet Letter.