Power of Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Power of the Symbol in The Scarlet Letter

All classic literature uses symbolism in one way or another. Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is no different. The very basis of every character, their personal appearance and way they act revolves around one thing, the Scarlet Letter. The scarlet letter is an "A", in crimson fabric, worn by a Puritan woman for her act of adultery. Its very existence is solely to cause shame and remorse on Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl, who was conceived in her lust, but it comes to stand for so much more. All of Hawthorne's main characters; Hester Prynne, Pearl, Reverend Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth, feel the wrath of one piece of cloth and learn how character can be created or destroyed by the simplest things.

Hester Prynne is the cause for all of a Puritan woman with more than her weight to bear. She was sent to America by her husband, Roger Chillingworth, where she committed adultery with her Reverend Dimmesdale and conceived a child, Pearl. In the beginning of the book, her beauty shines through the plain appearance of Puritan women. "The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brown and deep black eyes. She was lady like, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than which is now recognized as this indication."(55). But, with her sin, comes the dreaded Scarlet A. The letter, which she so beautifully embroidered, se...

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...aders with knowledge and a lifelong lesson. The Scarlet Letter teaches everyone to be able to see the sin and actual insides of someone's soul. After uncovering their deep, dark secrets, one is taught not to judge or persecute the person because of what their heart contains, for their heart may be cleaner than one's own.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bradley, Sculley, Beatty, Richmond Croom, and E. Hudson Long (1996). "The Social Criticism of a Public Man." Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne (pp. 47-49). San Diego: Greenhaven.

Chase, Richard (1996). "The Ambiguity of the Scarlet Letter." Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne (pp. 145-152). San Diego: Greenhaven.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.

Scharnhorst, Gary. The Critical Response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. New York: Greenwood, 1992.
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