Essay PreviewMore ↓
Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter
Symbolism plays an important role in the Scarlet Letter. The scarlet "A" is used to represent sin and anguish along with happiness. The "A" has different meanings to people other than what was originally intended. The scaffold is used as a place of repentance and judgment by God. Pearl is another major symbol used as a reminder of the scarlet letter.
The scarlet "A" is the most important symbol in the Scarlet Letter. The letter "A" does not have a "universally symbolic relationship" with adultery. The letter "A" was the first letter of adultery and the Puritans put the negative connotation on the letter. The community interprets the cosmic "A" as Angel, signifying the passing of Governor Winthrop. The letter on Hester's bosom represented the sin of adultery, yet as that it meant different things to Hester, Dimsdale, Pearl, Chillingworth and the Puritan community. To Hester it represented "alienation and unjust humiliation" .
"Hester looked, by way of humoring the child; and she saw that, owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance. In truth, she seemed absolutely hidden behind it."
This shows how the community saw a sinner and the "A", not Hester. The women sneered and jested at her in public and wanted to take Pearl from her. The prison also symbolizes isolation and alienation. Hester lives in a prison of alienation and Dimsdale in his guilt. Yet later as Hester shows signs of humbleness by embroidering items for others and still wearing dim colored clothing, the community says her "A" is for able. To Dimsdale, the letter represents his guilt and agony. It constantly torments him throughout the book. It reminds him of his undeclared sin and also how Hester suffers for him. For Chillingworth, the letter is his need for revenge and he wants what is on the minister's chest unveiled to the community. He did not want this to happen as fast as it happened for the letter was Chillingworth's life, and he died shortly afterward Dimsdale's death because he had nothing to do with his life.
How to Cite this Page
"Symbols and Symbolism Essay - Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Nov 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Talented writers often use extensive symbolism in there writing to portray intricate thoughts, ideas, and concepts. For example, in the popular 1978 movie Superman the “S” on Superman’s costume stands for super. Along the same lines, the “A” in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is also a symbol. However, in contrast to the one dimensional meaning of the “S” in Superman, the “A” in The Scarlet Letter has a multifaceted meaning. As the literature unfolds the meaning of the crimson letter shining on Hester Prynne’s bosom subtlety changes from meaning adulterer, to able and finally the “A” becomes a symbol for angel.... [tags: Symbolism, Superman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet ]
937 words (2.7 pages)
- Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne isn't noted for perfecting any famous literary style, for writing multiple best sellers, or even for contributing largely to classic American literature. His only real claim to fame is The Scarlet Letter: a novel that was originally only meant to be yet another Hawthorne short story. Because of this, it actually possesses many short story characteristics. "It is simpler and more complete than his other novels." (James 285) It also has an excellent plot backed by an expert use of literary techniques. One technique Hawthorne used was borrowed solely from drama: the use of the aside. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale delivers an aside in the... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1172 words (3.3 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1835 words (5.2 pages)
- Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the theme revolves around a sin that has been committed. It takes places in the seventeenth century in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hester Prynne, who had an affair with the local Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, commits the sin. Roger Chillingworth is Hester's husband while the affair is taking place. Because of the affair, Hester and Arthur have a daughter named Pearl. The sin that Hester commits is adultery. Hawthorne uses a variety of symbols throughout The Scarlet Letter, and he symbolizes the scarlet letter "A" in several ways.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
717 words (2 pages)
- Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne uses diction and symbolism to show the negative effects of stifling conformity verses the positive empowerment found in embarrassing one's own truth. He tries to impress upon his readers that an outsider, whether from another physical location, or simply someone who thinks and acts outside that society's definition of acceptable behavior can in fact facilitate positive change within that society. The secret in this novel most likely represents an idea, privacy, or even social censure.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
616 words (1.8 pages)
- Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Carl Jung believed that the source of symbols is universal. Symbols arise from the collective unconscious common to all humans everywhere. Joseph Campbell's research supports this theory; he traces universal archetypes through the stories, myths, and artwork of various cultures. While most work done with symbolism has focused on the universality of symbols, Nathaniel Hawthorn focuses on their personal, subjective meanings. A universal symbol arises from the symbol's relationship to reality; thus, such a symbol remains the same across cultures and with different individuals.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
575 words (1.6 pages)
- Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, includes a variety of symbolism, which plays a significant role in the book. The most significant symbol in The Scarlet Letter is Hester Prynne's daughter, Pearl, whom Hester bore as a result of her sin of adultery. Hester "named the infant "Pearl" as being of great price, -purchased with all she had, -her mother's only treasure!"(Hawthorne 75) As a consequence for Hester's sin, she is forced to wear the letter "A", for adultery, on her chest for the rest of her life.... [tags: Papers]
1072 words (3.1 pages)
- Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Symbols add so much to an authors work. To be able to play the game of figuring out those symbols is on reason most readers pick up certain author's writings. Hawthorne is one of those writers. In this book we are showered with wonderful symbols and clues to conjure into our interpretation of the story. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid, Puritanistic-structured society in which one is unable to divulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets.... [tags: Papers]
1028 words (2.9 pages)
- Use of Symbols in The Scarlet Letter In many stories, symbols included by the author add deeper meaning. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one author who mastered the skill of using symbols effectively. The Scarlet Letter is regarded as a "symbolic masterpiece" due to Hawthorne's exceptional use of the scarlet letter, the setting, and Pearl as symbols. One of the main symbols of the novel is the basis for the title of the novel itself. Hester Prynne's scarlet letter is attached to her dress, and appears "in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery with fantastic flourishes of gold thread" (Hawthorne 60). The letter is said to have "the effect of a spell, taking h... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1224 words (3.5 pages)
- Symbols in The Scarlet Letter In nearly every work of literature, readers can find symbols that represent feelings, thoughts or ideas within the text. Such symbols can be found in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne's book about an affair between a woman named Hester and a minister named Arthur Dimmmesdale is full of feelings of sin, guilt, hate, secrecy, and honesty. There are many symbols within the novel that can be interpreted to represent the key topics of the book. Each of these symbols is an important part of the story, and connects to the situations that occur around them. The main ideas of the novel are represented by recurring symbols in the... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1149 words (3.3 pages)
- Free Essay - Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale's Double-talk in The Scarlet Letter
- Sin of the Flesh in The Scarlet Letter
- Free Essays - The Four Castes of Orthodox Hinduism in Siddhartha
- Comparing Spiritual Growth in Siddhartha and the Movie (Film), Seven Years in Tibet
- Learning From Siddhartha
- Man vs. Woman in A Streetcar Named Desire
"As the last touch to her mermaid's garb, Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated, as best she could, on her own bosom, the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother's. A letter,--the letter A,--but freshly green, instead of scarlet!"
When Pearl forms the letter here she forms it out of wanting to be like her mother. Here it is green for the color of life. Thus speaking of the scarlet "A" in accordance to Pearl, the letter does mean life. Pearl shows her letter to Hester in green, trying to show life and the goodness of the letter. It also represents the "innocence and the signification of Pearl's future as the daughter of a sinner."
The Scaffold also plays an important role throughout the book. It signifies the judgment of God and the Puritan community. Hawthorne uses the scaffold to divide his book into three equal parts. Whenever the scaffold is mentioned, it is part of the three major climaxes of the story. The scaffold also represents the "strict moral code" of the puritan community. It displays Hester's sin to the whole town. It offers a safe place for Dimsdale where Chillingworth cannot reach his burdened heart. It is the only place in which Dimsdale must confess his sin to God and the community. The scaffold can also be said to represent the acknowledgement of sin. Here both Hester and Dimsdale paid the price of admitting their sins. In the end, when Dimsdale takes Hester and Pearl by the hands and leads them to the top to openly admit his sin to the world, the scaffold is used to show unity. When this is done it signifies that finally Dimsdale has come to triumph over his sin and accept his daughter.
Pearl is a symbol who develops into many different thoughts throughout the story. She is used for the purpose of happiness and evil. Pearl was the only thing that Hester had to love. If Pearl was not there, Hester would have no meaning to live. Pearl is used to show the interconnectedness of Dimsdale, Hester, and their sin.
"...with the scarlet token of infamy on her breast; with the sin-born infant in her arms; with a whole people, drawn forth as to a festival, staring at the features that should have been seen only in the quiet gleam of the fireside."
This shows how Pearl is a symbol of shame and Hester won't use one to hide another. In the forest, Hester throws away her letter after reconciling with Dimsdale. Pearl comes and points an accusing figure at Hester to pick up her own letter.
"...Pearl," said she, sadly, "look down at thy feet! There!--before thee!--on the hither side of the brook!" The child turned her eyes to the point indicated; and there lay the scarlet letter, so close upon the margin of the stream, that the gold embroidery was reflected in it. "Bring it hither!" said Hester. "Come thou and take it up!" answered Pearl."
When she will not bring it to Hester, Pearl represents fate as she makes Hester pick up her own letter and to be responsible for her own burden. Pearl also is a rose to her mother. She keeps Hester content and brings joy to her life, but then she becomes evil and always reminds Hester of her sin and in these times is when she is wilting. To Dimsdale, Pearl is a constant reminder of his non repented sin and his unfaithfulness to Pearl herself. She is the constant nagging that eventually made Dimsdale confess his sin. Once Dimsdale completes his confession and he dies, Pearl kisses her father "signifying the end of his anguish."
Overall, the symbols of the Scarlet Letter help us to see the main character's emotions deeper and to understand the meaning of the book. It shows that symbols form who we are and how other people look upon us.
"Symbolism of the Scarlet letter" Free Essays. http://www.freeessays.cc/db/18/esv276.shtml
Hawthorne, Nathaniel "Scarlet Letter" New York: Bantam Books, 1986
Druett, R "Subjective Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter" Drop of Ink. <http://www.drop-of-ink.com/letter.htm>
"Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter". Pink Monkey. <http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmScarletLetter49.asp>
"Essays on Pearl" Readings on The Scarlet Letter