Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

In his 1851 novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne fills every aspect of the story with symbolism. In the novel, Hawthorne utilizes the scarlet letter to help further character development. Not only was the scarlet letter a constant reminder of her sin, but also what she had to go through as a result of it. The scarlet letter helps Hester Prynne to overcome her weaknesses and become a caring, strong and tough individual.

The sin and punishment that follows affects Hester not just emotionally, but physically as well. When on the scaffold, Hawthorne describes Hester as having “dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful form regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes” (Hawthorne 49). At the beginning of her punishment, Hester still acquires much of her beauty. However, as her punishment continues, Hester no longer remained the woman she was before. Hester’s change was described as, “a sad transformation, too, that her rich and luxuriant hair had either been cut off, or was so completely hidden by a cap, that not a shining lock of it ever once gushed into the sunshine” (Hawthorne 157). Through these seven years, the scarlet letter took the life out of her along with her womanly qualities.

The scarlet letter allowed Hester to open her eyes to the ones in need. She began to help the poor even though her charity was not wanted of appreciated. Hawthorne states in describing Hester, “None so ready as she to give of her little substance to every demand of poverty; even though the bitter-hearted pauper threw back a gibe in requital of the food brought regularly to his door, or the garments wrought for him by the fingers that could have embroidered a monarch’s robe” (Hawthorne 154). Hester was always the first one to lend a hand to someone who could use it. Through her...
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