Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter: Flowers

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Jeffrey You
Mrs. S. Lopez
English III AP- 7th
10 January 2013
The Scarlet Letter Symbolism Essay
People often overlook obscure details due to a variety of reasons. In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, symbols are notable and powerful sources of percipience. Throughout the story, the author uses flowers as messengers of hope, love, forgiveness, and other emotions. In the novel, the disparity of wild-flowers and similarities between a rose and Hester show the threat of sin to Puritan ideology.

To begin, wild-flowers are thrown at the scarlet letter to reflect the Puritan principles that Hester Prynne neglects to follow. While in the forest, Pearl gathers handfuls of wild-flowers and flings them at her mother’s scarlet letter. Hester instinctively moves to “cover her bosom with her clasped hands”, but “from resignation” and a “feeling that her penance might best be wrought out by this unutterable pain, she [resists] the impulse” as the “battery of flowers” covers her “breast with hurts that no balm exists for in the world (Hawthorne 49).” Wild-flowers are associated with innocence and purity and compares favorably to a good Purian’s virtues. Most wild-flowers are ordinary on the outside with golden pollen inside. From a historical artistic perspective, a good Christian is plain on the outside and conceals his or her beauty and wealth. However, on the inside they possess a heart of gold and valiant compassion. These flowers stand in sharp contrast to Hester’s tainted character. She is a sinner who commits adultery, flaunts her beauty excessively, and refuses to respond to questions about her affair. The flowers can even be compared to the community taunting and mocking her in the first scaffold scene. By symbolically barraging Hester with wild-flowers, it is almost as if she is being chastised for not being a wild-flower, like the other Puritans. Thus, the wild-flowers, as a representation of purity and an ideal Puritan, contrast with Hester’s...
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