Essay On The Scarlet Letter Symbolism

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Evolution of a Symbol Symbols in literature are an essential element to the story and to the characters they apply to. Symbols link the whole work together and offer a deeper meaning to something that may appear shallow on the surface. However, these symbols are usually static. For Hester Prynne in the gothic romance, The Scarlet Letter and her symbol of a bright red A emblazoned on her chest this is not so. The symbol of Hester’s sin in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne proves that stigmas and reputations can change from a mark of shame and disgrace into a mark of respect and honor. When Hester initially receives her scarlet letter it is meant to display her sin of adultery to the town and its people. The intensity of the letter…show more content…
It slowly changes from bad to good as the story progresses. Hester uses the scarlet letter and the pain and grief it brings her to become a better person. Hawthorne describes this learning through pain, saying, “Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed, from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation as was altogether foreign to the clergyman. She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness.... The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss” (180). While many people would give up hope upon receiving a scarlet letter and all the despair, grief and isolation that comes with it. Hester is an iconoclast in this sense because she has the ability to use an almost irreversible mark of shame to teach her how to be a better person. The changing of the symbol also becomes a point of hope for others who have sinned. They see it as an example that they can change who they are. Hawthorne explains the effect the scarlet letter has on others after Hester returns, saying “Here had been her sin; here, her sorrow; and here was yet to be her penitence. She had returned, therefore, and resumed,—of her own free will, for not the sternest magistrate of that iron period would have imposed it,—resumed the symbol of which we have related so dark a tale. Never afterwards did it quit her bosom. But ... the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too.” (234). The symbol of the scarlet letter evolves from one of disgrace and shame, to a sign of hope and remembrance. It reminds people not to sin but
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