The Scarlet Letter: A Symbolic Narrative


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The Scarlet Letter: A Symbolic Narrative
After reading any sort of book or story, the reader may sit back and think about how the book was written. For example, one may look at the style, genre, and origins of the book. In this case, after reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I took a look back at how this great author created such a great work of literature that we still read some 160 years later. What I found was that this is simply a piece of well-written, mind enhancing symbolic fiction. It's interesting to take a good look at how Hawthorne uses symbols to get his messages across to the reader. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses symbols to better support his main ideas or other points of interest. Exploring this book inside and out there are many objects, characters, and figures, or colors that are used to signify abstract thoughts or concepts. For example the scarlet letter itself is a one of Hawthorne's brilliant symbols. That as well as, the meteor, pearl, and the rosebush next to the prison are parts of Hawthorne's emblematic writings. In this next piece of text, I will further describe these extremely intellectual symbols that Nathaniel Hawthorne used in The Scarlet Letter.
The first of these symbols is the scarlet letter itself. The scarlet letter is a different kind of symbol than the others because it is known to everyone that the scarlet letter is a symbol. It is the symbol of indignity and dishonor that the townspeople have brought upon Hester Prynne. Initially this elaborately decorated piece is meant to symbolize "adulterer." Soon, however, the meaning of the scarlet letter changes as does its significance and implication. In the beginning it is even tough for her to live with it. As told when she goes to visit Governor Bellingham and she sees herself in the armor, the letter takes up most of her image and this is basically a symbol of how she feels in life. Although this seems like the worst punishment possible for Hester, it actually isn't. What makes it so bad is that the letter does serve, as a physical punishment and reminder, like pearl, for her affair with Dimmesdale. At the same time though, compared to a child, the letter seems trivial, and helps to point out to Hester that the letter isn't of much importance.

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The letter actually ends up being something that defines her. As time passed the letter actually became indeterminate. When the Native Americans came for the Election Day parade, they actually thought that Hester was someone of significance, because she wore the scarlet letter. At the time around Dimmesdale's confession, the letter actually comes to signify "Able," because of all of the good things that Hester did despite it. In the end, it was a symbol of changed meanings, but was something that Hester always lived with.
The symbols that Hawthorne gives throughout the book are symbols that mean different things to different people. The reader, as well as, the characters in the book can have different interpretations on what they mean. In the case of the meteor being a symbol, the characters in the book disagree on what it means. As Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl, the three of them see a meteor that makes the letter "A" in the sky. This to Dimmesdale tells him that he needs to bear something upon himself, as Hester does, to represent what he has done. The people of the town, on the other hand, think that it stands for "Angel" and symbolizes Governor Winthrop's entrance into heaven. Basically, the meteor ends up symbolizing the constant guilt that Dimmesdale and Hester have to live with and the meteor is just a reminder to them of what they have done.
The next symbol is one that actually may not be very easily seen as a symbolic figure but actually is. Pearl, although a human, is a symbol in The Scarlet Letter. Throughout the book, Pearl actually represents a living, breathing version of Hester's scarlet letter. She is the obvious physical reminder of the horrible sin that Hester committed. Not only is she a reminder of the sexual sin, but she is also part of the punishment. At the same time, not only is she a punishment, but also Pearl is a hidden blessing to her mother. She represents more than just "sin," she represents the imperative spirit and infatuation within the sin. Pearl gives her mother a motivation to live. Pearl keeps her mother going when she feels like giving up. Throughout the book when Pearl is known as somewhat of a devil child it is because she is a symbol of the reminder of an unanswered obscurity. When Dimmesdale finally reveals that he is Pearl's father she finally becomes a normal, caring human being again. In the end, it is clear that one of the most main characters of this book is actually just a symbol.
In the opening chapters of the story, Hawthorne describes the rosebush and some weeds next to the prison that Hester is in. These may be easily overlooked, but actually come to represent more than just their external appearance. The thorns on the rosebush as well as the weeds around it are there to represent the bad in the society, and the bad in the people of the world. The actual roses themselves actually come to represent the good in the people of this world. A rosebush is actually used as a symbol of the people. A person can be an absolutely great person with wonderful qualities and then go and do something horrible. The perfect examples of this would be Dimmesdale and Hester. So the rosebush and the weeds end up symbolizing human nature and all that comes with it.
Listed before you are four major points of The Scarlet Letter. All four of these major points are also symbols, and these are only four of many that Hawthorne used to write this book. Hawthorne used to symbols to get give the reader something to think about and options of their own. This book turns out to be a total adventure of a read because of all of the symbols and double meanings that Hawthorne presents to you. Not only do these symbols make the reader think, but they also support main ideas or points of interest to get a general message across. What brings readers back to this book and has kept them reading it for almost 160 years now is the ability for the reader to this his or her way through it. Hawthorne lets the reader decide what they want everything to represent. This is what makes The Scarlet Letter so great.


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