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L'oxymore comme point de confluence des contraires : l'exemple de The Scarlet Letter de Nathaniel Hawthorne

Abstract : Nathaniel Hawthorne’s style is a clearly recognizable feature of the American author. Its remarkable clarity is notably found in The Scarlet Letter, his major literary achievement. Hawthorne’s style, clear and transparent, describes each and every element the reader encounters in the novel. But once we understand that what appears as clarity is actually artificial, a second layer of reading emerges and what dominates is a style of writing that gives centre stage to contraries and doubles, notably via the use of the oxymoron, the figure of speech where an impossible association of contraries takes place. The oxymoron, via the union in the same syntactic structure of two contrary words, gives a paradoxical definition of the object described. It is a linguistic structure based on the conjunction of contraries. Whether it be Hester’s imprisoned speech, Dimmesdale’s unbearable guilt or Pearl’s angelic-devilish personality, all the characters of The Scarlet Letter are victims of situations in which it is impossible for them to talk. This is where Hawthorne’s novel excels, using the oxymoron to depict characters forced to wear veils and masks they are unable to get rid of. In order to say the unsaid and to give voice to the deafening silences, the oxymoron is used by Hawthorne to highlight the characters’ impossible destinies in the Puritan Boston of the 17th century.
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Submitted on : Sunday, October 21, 2018 - 8:15:09 AM
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Jean Missud. L'oxymore comme point de confluence des contraires : l'exemple de The Scarlet Letter de Nathaniel Hawthorne. Etudes de stylistique anglaise, Société de stylistique anglaise, Lyon, 2016. ⟨hal-01900159⟩

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