Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, delivers a powerful novel invokedwith symbolism. Centered on Hester, a woman branded with a scarlet “A” as amark for adultery, much of the Scarlet Letters symbolism grows from thecruel, and shameful letter. The “A” symbolizes the “walking emblem ofshame.” (Hawthorne 6). Throughout the novel, the brand of disgust evolvesaround the characters influenced by Hester, including her illegitimate childPearl. Even Pearl is subject to the shame her mother has bore, and is alsoshunned from the strict Puritan society.

The close of the novel reveals that thesymbol has given Hester strength to redeem her sin, rather then brake herspirits. The adulterous mark is almost replaced by the community as “able”due to Hesters deeds to the community. Scarlet Letter also uses nature’sflowers as a way to symbolize growth in the novel. The opening chapter describesa rosebush growing by the prison. It shows how even a beautiful flower like therose can be judged as sacrificial, with its petals near the jail. This relatesto Hester, as her beautiful character is judged by sin, not by actions. Later inthe novel, Chillingworth, Hesters husband, expresses to let the “blackflower blossom as it may.” (Hawthorne 14). This reoccurrence of the flowershows how Chillingworth accepts his tortuous soul.

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The flower’s bloom is adirect symbol for the growth of character in Scarlet Letter. Clothing is a finalsource Hawthorne uses to symbolize. In chapter 7, Pearl is dressed in a redgown, with gold trim. The dress of Pearl is almost identical to the brand Hestermust endure, with her scarlet brand. Chillington is dressed in black, whichgives an insight into his sinister character, as revealed in chapter 14.

Also,the use of bright color, like red, and gold expresses how different Hester andPearl are viewed by the Puritan society, which mainly dresses in plain,emotionless colors. The brand of sin is reflected in all the aspects ofHesters life, which show how clothing in Scarlet Letter drastically reflectssituation, and character. Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter gives a tremendousimpression on the reader, filled with oppression, and historical opinion of thePuritans.

Unfortunately, as the novel appears to mirror reality, situations inthe storyline leave the reader skeptical about the actual ability to performthese actions. Hesters sudden removal of the scarlet brand bestowed upon herseems very unrealistic, considering it took seven years to remove it so quickly,and carefree. It almost makes the symbol of the scarlet letter obsolete at theend of the chapter 18, leaving insinuation that the letter did not have as muchinfluence as formerly expressed. The Scarlet Letter also confuses the readerduring chapters after 20.

The final pages of the novel give a completelydifferent perspective. Generally focused on the main characters, during chapter21, and 22, the market gives a more broad insight into the community. While itmakes for interesting reading, the sudden change of perspective leaves thereader strayed from the main characters, like Hester, and Pearl. The ScarletLetter is a very intriguing novel, for anyone looking to find a tale of Puritanlife, and the harsh reality of the times. Overall, the Scarlet Letter deliversan exciting, and interesting view for all readers.

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Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (2018, Dec 30). Retrieved from

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