Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

"The common definition says that a symbol is a sign or token of something… We take symbols like these pretty much for granted. They are a part of everyday experience. In literature, matters are a little more complicated. Literary symbols usually don’t have instantly recognizable meanings. Rather they take their meanings from the work of which they are part" ("The Scarlet Letter" 8). An example of symbols that most take for granted would be the rosebush, which Hawthorne selects a flower from as an offering to the reader, to the elfish child Pearl, to the scarlet letter A; these are all symbols that Hawthorne uses. The average reader may take it for granted, but each symbol within this novel has a purpose. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses all of these symbols to build his story, to make it come to life. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is created around the different symbols within the novel.

The most obvious symbol of the novel is the one from which the book takes its title, the scarlet letter A. The scarlet letter must be separated from the literary form, in order to find full understanding of the letter. The literary symbol for he scarlet letter is a "concrete and an untranslatable presentation of an idea" (Weiss 19). The scarlet letter cannot find its way into the real life, except through the "meditation of the symbol" (Weiss 20). The scarlet letter is therefore a punishment by the Puritan society’s desire to bring for the truth, but it was brought to life by Hester. Hawthorne also lets the scarlet letter take on many other forms. The scarlet letter not only stands for adulteress, but for angel and able. It is also a reminder to both Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale of ...

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