Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is generally considered to
be the first American symbolic novel. A symbol is something which is used
to represent something broader in meaning.
The most obvious symbol in the novel is the actual scarlet "A" which
both the criticism and I agree upon. This "A" is the literal symbol of the
sin of adultery. The letter A then appears in many different forms
throughout the novel. The gold-embroidered A on Hester Prynne's fascinates
Pearl Prynne. It is magnified in the armor breast plate at Governor
Bellingham's mansion which is so extreme that it seems to hide and cover
Hester. On the night of Arthur Dimmesdale vigil, he sees a red A in the
sky. And finally, the letter is revealed on Dimmsdale's chest in front of
the whole village.
The A also takes on many meanings. It has the original meaning as
well as different meanings to various characters. To Hester, the A means
humiliation. The A to Dimmesdale is a reminder of his own contrition. To
Pearl, the A is peculiarity and Roger Chillingworth sees the A as a journey
for retaliation. Other then adultery, the A can also stand for "Angel" and
"Able". Angel, for it appears in the sky after Governor Winthrop's death.
Able, for Hester has won the respect of the Puritans even if she has sinned
Hawthorne uses the prison building to describe crime and punishment in
contrast with the tombstone at the end of ...
... middle of paper ...
...t price is Hester's reputation
and her standing in the community. Pearl is also a self-contained symbol.
The result of her parent's sin is shown in her often imprudent comments and
Each character in the novel suffers from a sin which they try to
crush and bemoan with goodness from their own heart.
The Scarlet Letter is a book filled with symbolism. I feel the
symbolism helps to relate a situation to a position the reader knows about.
The critic which I based this on feels that there is voluminous accounts
of symbolism, even too much. I must disagree with this. Hawthorne's The
Scarlet Letter is an amazingly written book for its time with just the
right amount of powerful symbolism.
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