The Use Of Symbolism In The Scarlett Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a gothic romance novel. The premise of the story is based on Hester Prynne, a young woman whose husband sent her to America and promised to meet her there later. However, he never arrived and was assumed to be dead. Hester has an affair with Arthur Dimmesdale the pastor of the Puritan church, resulting in the birth of her child Pearl. The town learns the news of the affair and wonders who the father may be. Because Hester refuses to reveal the fathers identity and consider an adulterer, she is branded and forced to forever wear the scarlet letter “A” on her chest. The story takes a twist when Hester’s former husband Chillingsworth returns to New England
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Puritans were a sect of Protestant Christians influenced by Calvinism, the idea that salvation is predestined. Hester was shunned by the Puritans. She was deemed an outcast and a sinner by the people of the Puritan colony of Boston, because she committed adultery. Puritans were overly strict and had a lack of compassion. Hawthorne in the first chapter describes the town as “the black flower of civilized society” (Hawthorne 45). He uses a flower, to symbolize the despair of the prison town. The use of nature to symbolize the prison also establishes a dark and gloomy atmosphere that sets up the tone of the scene by the scaffold, the place of punishment. During that scene, Hester stood there holding her baby Pearl for three hours on the scaffold in the village square, while wearing the letter “A” on her chest. A number of events in the novel give us a clearer picture about the role of women in the Puritan society. In one scene, amongst the crowd of on lookers were the women of the town, as they gathered to witness Hester and the letter that is marked on her chest, they gossip over her punishment. One young woman tells her neighbors, “Let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart,” (Hawthorne 60) highlighting the fact that Hester feels shame whether or not she is forced to wear the mark. Another woman demands that they brand Hester’s forehead with the letter “A” (Hawthorne…show more content…
Cindy Lou Daniels writes about one reoccurring example in, “In Hawthorne’s novel, the strict authoritarianism of Puritan patriarchy finds its object in the child Pearl, who becomes the target of the Puritan’s effort to control both human and sexuality, and its literary, historical expression.” (Daniels). The Puritans believed they have the authority to determine how Hester and Pearl should live the rest of their lives. Hester is deemed a lesser value than the rest of the society by living in seclusion and also having to wear the mark of the scarlet letter to single her out from everyone
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