Symbol of Shame

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Symbolism Pages: 3 (975 words) Published: January 23, 2011
Symbol of Shame

Symbolism in literature is the hidden meaning in a piece of work. It is used to represent moral and/ or religious values and beliefs. As time goes on in the world, society and what makes up society changes. In today’s sense, pride is based on the individualism that one has developed. The diversity in today’s society allows for many different beliefs and social concepts. Looking back to the early years when Puritanism was an ongoing religion with many followers, tradition along with strict biblical standards were everything; but now many things have changed. The reality of change is seen in the book, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorn whereby as society changes so to does the perception of all symbolism. The metaphorical meaning of the scarlet letter changes from this symbol of shame to a powerful symbol of identity to Hester; the transformation shows the changes Hester experiences in her life. These changes bring Hester power, power to stand for who she is, power to overcome the humiliation and pain. She then finds herself able, able of becoming herself, to become a representation of an individual with a strong sense of self-empowerment. The symbolism behind the scarlet letter changes throughout the novel. Initially the letter symbolizes the sin of adultery, the crime, the punishment, the humiliation that Hester has to endure because of the strict beliefs of the puritan society. This uncivil punishment causes Hester this “dreadful agony in feeling a human eye upon the token; the spot never grew callous; it seemed, on the contrary, to grow more sensitive with daily torture." (Hawthorne, 74) At the beginning of the novel the A causes Hester much “dreadful agony” and “torture.” It causes her torture to live with this permanent mark of sin on her. The A is the symbol of her pure “agony” and suffering. A change of heart comes; Hester alters its meaning through the hard work she does in the town. Society begins to recognize that the...
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