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Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

 
   Carl Jung believed that the source of symbols is universal. Symbols arise from the collective unconscious common to all humans everywhere. Joseph Campbell's research supports this theory; he traces universal archetypes through the stories, myths, and artwork of various cultures. While most work done with symbolism has focused on the universality of symbols, Nathaniel Hawthorn focuses on their personal, subjective meanings.

 

A universal symbol arises from the symbol's relationship to reality; thus, such a symbol remains the same across cultures and with different individuals. While symbols can be created, such created symbols are subjective and must be given meaning within their context and because the context is different among individuals and societies and can vary over time, the meanings of the symbols are, likewise, highly variable.

 

In The Scarlet Letter, the symbol of most importance is the letter A which Hester Prynne is condemned to wear, having been found guilty of adultery. Literally, the letter A is an arbitrary v...

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