Essay on Symbolism Of The Yellow Tree By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay on Symbolism Of The Yellow Tree By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hawthorne further employs amazing literary techniques in his novel through the use of motifs, developed by symbols within the book. One of these motifs developed through symbolism is the motif of harsh Puritan punishment. This is first seen near the jail cell in which Hester was being detained for some time prior to the start of the novel. The entryway to the prison, an “… iron-clamped oaken door…” is a symbol used to develop this motif (43). The symbol lies in the word “oaken”, which, as stated previously, the oak tree a strong symbol for the Puritans and their practices. The way this door is “…clamped” implies there is little to no escape, instilling a foreboding mood. The door being the entrance to a prison is notable as well; the Puritans, symbolized by the door, are open only for the punishment of others, in this case the jailing of Hester for her actions. This will and desire to punish others for being less holy than them is what defines this motif of Puritan punishment: Hawthorne wanted to point this out so that people in his time could start to realize how restrictive and punishing the Puritan society was and was becoming – it was alienating anyone who disagreed with the Puritans, and anyone who angered them was considered Satanic and punished heavily for it. In Hester’s case this punishment manifested in the form of ruthless exile and belittlement by her community at the hands of the Puritans and their rampant punitive control over Hawthorne’s society. This is further shown through another motif, namely the idea of identity. As Hester is entering the court, she holds the baby Pearl up to her chest to try and block the scarlet letter, promptly realizing that “… one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide anoth...


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...beast, not meant to be trifled with in any way: yet Pearl, who is like an animal in her own way due to being related to the freedom of a bird, can coexist and play with this beast without fear. Her “kindred wilderness” that the wolf senses is seen in her relation to the bird, as both are wild and free creatures: this is how Pearl relates to the animal. Because of this, the wolf accepts her when no one else but her mother will. Through this, Hawthorne makes his greatest point yet and begs the question: Was his society, or even the civilization of man, truly free? Only the outcasts and exiled ones of his society can relate to and enjoy the company of the most free creatures there are; this disconnect between the raw, wild freedom and the Puritan society Hawthorne lived in led to him creating this unparalleled diction to point out his questions and flaws of civilization.

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