1．The definition of symbolism
The slightest survey of different epochs of civilization discloses great differences in their attitude towards symbolism. For example, duri g the medieval period in Europe symbolism seemed to dominate men's imaginations. Architecture was symbolical, ceremonial was symbolical, heraldry was symbolical. With the Reformation a reaction set in. Men tried to dispense with symbols as 'fond things, vainly invented,' and concentrated on their direct apprehension of the ultimate facts. But such symbolism is on the fringe of life. It has an unessential element in its constitution. The very fact that it can be acquired in one epoch and discarded in another epoch testifies to its superficial nature.
2. Different meanings of the scarlet letter “A”
2.1 The Changes of the Symbolic Meaning of the Scarlet Letter "A".
In this novel, the scarlet letter "A" changes its meaning many different times. This change is significant. It shows growth in the characters, and the community in which they live. The letter "A" begins as a symbol of sin. It then becomes a symbol of alone and alienation, and finally it becomes a symbol of able, angel and admirable.
The letter "A", worn on Hester's bosom, is a symbol of her adultery against Roger Chillingworth. This is the puritan way of treating her as a criminal, for the crime of adultery. The puritan treatment continues, because as Hester walks through the streets, she will be looked down upon as if she is some sort of demon from hell that commits a terrible crime. This letter is meant to be worn in shame, and to make Hester feel unwanted. "Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment…(P74)" Hester is ashamed of her sin, but she chooses not to show it. She commits this sin in the heat of passion, and fully admits it because, though she is ashamed, she also receives her greatest treasure, Pearl, out of it. She... [continues]
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