Essay On Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

847 Words4 Pages
Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most creative symbolists in 19th century literature. Throughout his novel The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne makes use of various effective symbols that are represented through characters and the scarlet letter itself. These symbols are used to represent the various aspects of rigid Puritan society. For the duration of the novel, some of Hawthorne's symbols change their connotation, depending on the context while some remain static. Some of the obvious static symbols include the Reverend Mr. Wilson, who represents the Church and Governor Bellingham, who represents the State. However many of Hawthorne's symbols change — especially his characters — depending on the way the community treats and their reactions to their sins. His characters and the scarlet A all serve highly symbolic purposes. Through the public eye, Hester is a sinner who demonstrates the effect of punishment on sensitivity and human nature. She is seen as a fallen woman, a culprit who deserves the sordidness of her immoral deed. Over the seven years of her punishment, Hester's inner conflict changes from a victim of Puritan branding to a determined woman in touch with human nature. When she meets Dimmesdale in the forest in Chapter 18, Hawthorne says, "The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread." In time, the Puritan community comes to see the letter as meaning "Able" or "Angel" and not just a symbol of guilt. Hester’s sensitivity with the victims of society turns her symbolic meaning from a person whose life was originally sinful and sombre, to a strong and understanding woman with consideration for the humanity of others. In Hester’... ... middle of paper ... ...ter's bosom as a mark of just punishment and a symbol to deter others from sin. Hester is a Fallen Woman with a symbol of her guilt. Later, when she becomes a frequent visitor in homes of pain and sorrow, the A is seen to represent "Able" or "Angel." It has rejuvenated Hester and changed her meaning in the eyes of the community. The Scarlet Letter is brimming with symbols which represent various aspects of Puritan society. In every chapter symbols are displayed through characters and the letter itself. The most dramatic of chapters using these techniques to provide the reader with vivid imagery of the events that took place. Hawthorne's ability to introduce these symbols and change them through the context of his novel is but one of the reasons that The Scarlet Letter is considered a classic masterpiece and a superior example of the romance novel. Word Count: 662
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