Scarlet Letters Use Of Symbolism To Show Psychological Effects Of Sin

Scarlet Letters Use Of Symbolism To Show Psychological Effects Of Sin

Length: 1114 words (3.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
     "The act…gross and brief, and brings loathing after it." This was
said by St. Augustine, regarding immorality. This is discovered to be very
true by the main characters in The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's
story of a woman (Hester) who lives with the Puritans and commits adultery
with the local minister (Dimmesdale). In his novel, Hawthorne shows that
sin, known or unknown to the community, isolates a person from their
community and from God. He shows us this by symbols in nature around
the town, natural symbols in the heavens, and nature in the forest.
First we see two symbols in the town that show how sin isolates people.
In the first chapter we see a plant which stands out, "But on one side of the
portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rosebush, covered…
with its delicate gems" (Hawthorne, 46). This rosebush is like Hester, for it
too stands out as wild and different. She wears her scarlet letter among the
solemnly dressed Puritans as this rosebush wears its scarlet blossoms
amidst a small plot of grass and weeds. They both stand separate from their
surroundings. Later in the book we hear a conversation between
Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth (Hester's unknown husband). They are
discussing the origin of a strange dark plant that Chillingworth discovered. "I
found them growing on a grave which bore no tombstone, nor other memorial
of the dead man, save these ugly weeds that have taken upon themselves to
keep him in remembrance. They grew out of his heart, and typify…some
hideous secret that was buried with him…" (Hawthorne, 127). Here we have
a special case of one who was not discovered by men to have sinned during
their lifetime. However, having avoided punishment in life, this person has
been isolated in death. This person tried to keep wrongdoing a secret, hiding
it within himself. Yet the sins committed could not be kept secret,
evidenced by their final disclosure shortly after death. There remains nothing
honorable to show where this person lies, but rather mutant weeds that grew
out of the blackness of the person's heart. The final resting place of the
wrongdoer has now been separated from other graves as the sins are
manifested by natural powers.
The next area is symbols in the skies. Our first instance occurs during
the second famous scaffold scene. Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl are atop
the scaffold when, "a light gleamed far and wide over all the muffled sky.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Scarlet Letters Use Of Symbolism To Show Psychological Effects Of Sin." 20 Jan 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

An Inside Look At Public Shaming Essay

- Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter offers the reader an inside look at public shaming as a punishment. Throughout the book, Hester Prynne’s punishment requires her to wear a scarlet “A” on her bosom because she committed adultery and ultimately got caught. Similar to Hester Prynne and her community, judges today sentence criminals to public shaming as a reprimand for committing crimes. However, public shaming is unfair and should not be used in the United States court system. Public shaming penalties cannot guarantee consistency between each punishment; therefore, public shaming is unconstitutional and unethical to use within the United States court system....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter]

Research Papers
959 words (2.7 pages)

The Psychological Effects of Sin in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

- In the novel ,The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author portrays the psychological effect of sin on Reverand Dimmesdale through internal torture and through Roger Chillingworth in him becoming a fiend. Roger becomes entangled in this idea of punishment and the discovery of the fiend who took his wife, while Dimmesdale becomes so sickened with guilt he begins to hurt himself. Throughout the novel Chillingworth slowly starts to develop into this fiend like character. His physical form begins to change over time....   [tags: punishment, revenge, guilt]

Research Papers
555 words (1.6 pages)

The Effects of Sin in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Essay

- Sin has been present since the beginning of time and will forever remain. As each era has passed, people have had different views on how sin should be recognized and punished. In the Puritan times, sin was usually punishable by death. Therefore, some sins were purposefully hidden. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale becomes a victim to his own concealed sin. Dimmesdale is a partner in adultery with Hester Prynne, the wearer of the scarlet letter. He is living a lie, and it is tearing his guilty soul apart....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter Essays]

Research Papers
1050 words (3 pages)

Essay on Hester's Psychological Alienation in The Scarlet Letter

- Hester's Psychological Alienation in The Scarlet Letter     Throughout his book The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne is preoccupied with the relationship between the individual and society. Hester's sin and subsequent condemnation alienate her. No where is this alienation more apparent than in Chapter 5, "Hester at her Needle". Condemned by her sin of passion, Hester is  separated from her community, not only physically, as she lives on the edge of the town, but also socially. In this chapter, Hawthorne presents the most profoundly destructive aspect of her estrangement in her psychological condition.  Hester, deemed a social pariah, is left alone in the world, with...   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]

Research Papers
1333 words (3.8 pages)

Effects of Child Abuse on Psychological Development Essay

- Most people do not know how to cope with abused children. I became interested in this topic because when I was a teenager I had a friend who was abused by her stepfather and I didn’t know how to help her. I would like to know how children’s psychological development is affected, and how we can help these children cope with their misfortune. The most common effect is that maltreated children are, essentially, rejected. These destructive experiences impact on the developing child, increasing the risks for emotional, behavioral, social and physical problems throughout life....   [tags: Effects of Child Abuse on Behavior]

Free Essays
1106 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on The Use of Mirrors in The Scarlet Letter

- The Use of Mirrors in The Scarlet Letter "Life is for each man," states Eugene O'Neill, "a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors." In other words, one can fool himself, but a mirror reflects only the truth. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, mirrors are used as a literary device to convey a message. Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, Hester, and Pearl each judge themselves with mirrors. Through the use of mirrors, The Scarlet Letter provides an insight into the faults, or lack thereof, of the four main characters....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]

Research Papers
1187 words (3.4 pages)

The Effective Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

- The Effective Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Webster defined "symbol" with these words: "Something concrete that represents or suggests another thing that cannot in itself be pictured." This concept has been particularly applied to literature and used by writers throughout history. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter uses multitudes of symbols in such a manner. One of the most prominent, and most complicated, of such symbols is the scarlet letter "A". The scarlet letter "A" is a symbol of a daughter's connection to her mother, isolation, and the devil and its associations....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]

Research Papers
702 words (2 pages)

Use of Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

- 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]

Research Papers
1224 words (3.5 pages)

Essay on the Use of Chiaroscuro in The Scarlet Letter

- Use of Chiaroscuro in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne the author of The Scarlet Letter uses the literary device of chiaroscuro to effectively develop his characters. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804 to a prominent family. His father passed away on a voyage when he was four years old. His relatives recognized his talent, and they helped pay his way to Bowdoin College. Hawthorne and his classmates became the most prominent people in America at that time. He had many strong ties with important people from attending Bowdoin, such as: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce....   [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]

Research Papers
748 words (2.1 pages)

The Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

- The Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a few key symbols to represent major themes in the book. The most obvious and well known, as it is in the title, is the scarlet letter Hester is forced to wear. Three other symbols are the scaffold, the sun, and the forest. To begin with, the most important and influential symbol in the entire book is the infamous scarlet letter, hence the title, The Scarlet Letter....   [tags: Scarlet Letter Essays]

Research Papers
1255 words (3.6 pages)

Related Searches

was doubtless caused by one of those meteors…the minister, looking
upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter-the
letter 'A'-marked out in lines of dull red light" (Hawthorn, 150, 152). This is
God's condemnation of the two sinners, most especially Dimmesdale.
Hester has already been discovered and is receiving her punishment by
wearing the scarlet letter branding her as an adulteress and keeping her
socially isolated. Dimmesdale, however, hides his sin from people.
Because of this, heaven here openly condemns him with natural phenomena,
and shows that he is no longer welcome in heaven. Another symbol from
above shows Hester estranged from society. " 'Mother,' said little Pearl, 'the
sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is
afraid of something on your bosom…Stand you here, and let me run and
catch it'…Pearl…did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the
midst of it…until her mother had drawn almost nigh enough to step into the
magic circle too …As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished"
(Hawthorne, 180). This too is a heavenly sign from God. Although Hester is
undergoing punishment, she has never repented (we see this when she later
attempts to get Dimmesdale to run away with her). Because of this, God
will not grace her with his smile of sunshine. Pearl on the other hand, who is
young and pure, is able to freely romp about in it.
Last to be discussed are the natural symbols that we encounter in the
forest. When Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest, all the sorrow of the
past few years since their sin is brought up. Their natural surroundings begin
to reciprocate their pain, "The boughs were tossing heavily above their heads;
while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another, as if telling the sad
story of the pair that sat beneath, or constrained to forebode evil to come"
(Hawthorne, 192). Their sorrow is so intense even the natural world around
them feels the effects. It can sense the unfairness in their situation, how
their society has caused them to either live a lie or deny themselves what
they really want (each other). It also knows that nothing good can come of
this, which is why it forebodes evil. Later on in that same scene, Hester and
Dimmesdale decide to escape together. In a moment of joy, Hester removes
the scarlet letter and tosses it away from herself. "So speaking, she undid
the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and, taking it from her bosom,
threw it to a distance among the withered leaves…With a hand's breadth
further flight it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook
another woe to carry onward…But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering
like a lost jewel…" (Hawthorne, 198-199). She thinks she can just cast off
her ignominy, removing guilt as easily as the letter itself is removed. However,
she is not truly repentant for her sins. Rather, she is sorry that she was
caught. When the letter does not reach the river and isn't carried away, it
shows that she is doomed to her shame. She cannot be assimilated into
normal society until she proves herself sorry for what she has done. We later
see this is true as she lives her final years alone in her cottage on the
outskirts of town, still with the scarlet letter affixed to her bosom.
In conclusion, Hawthorne effectively uses symbolism in the preceding
aspects of nature to show how sin leads to isolation. The main sinners of
this novel are constantly set apart from others, and the whole world stands in
disapproval. As St. Augustine noted, the idolatrous act is fleeting, but the
aftereffects are loathed as they cause terrible things, such as isolation. In
our time society is characterized by more and more amoral people.
Progressing until they are "past all moral sense," they eventually give
"themselves over to loose conduct" (Paul, Ephesians 4:19). Such ones, as
well as all of us, should take a lesson from the theme of Hawthorne's novel.
For isolation, terrible enough in itself, is only one of the many effects of sin.
Return to