Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most widely known authors to use symbols in American literature. In the book, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he uses symbols to represent an idea. An example of this would be religious, moral, or philosophical concept or value. An allegory in literature is a story where characters, objects, and events have a hidden meaning and are used to present some universal lesson. Hawthorne demonstrates this type of symbolism in the book because the Puritans saw the world through allegory. Puritans saw simple patterns, like the meteor streaking through the sky as a religious or moral interpretation for human events and objects, such as the scaffold, were ritualistic symbols for sin and confession. Puritans saw such rituals as a repressive exercise but Hawthorne turns their beliefs and interpretations around. The Puritan community sees Hester Prynne as a fallen woman, Pearl as an impish child, and Dimmesdale as a saint. Hawthorne displays Hester and Pearl as non-credible Puritan characters and Dimmesdale as a Puritan.
Hester Prynne is a public sinner who demonstrates the effect of punishment on human nature. She is seen as a fallen woman, a culprit who deserves the disgrace of her immoral choice. Hester struggles with her recognition of the letter's symbolism just as people struggle with their moral choices. The paradox of this is the Puritans label her with the mark of sin and, in so doing, reduce her to a lifeless woman whose passion is missing, and beauty has disappeared. For example, “She hath good skill at her needle.” (p. 52). Hester was talented at sewing and when she embroidered her own Scarlet Letter this displayed un-puritanism beliefs and rejected her from others. In Chapter 3, Mr. Wilson asked Hester to reveal who the father is and Hester replies, “I will not speak… And my child must seek a heavenly father; she shall never know an earthly one!” (p.66). Hester’s determination to stand alone despite the opinion of...
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