The Scarlet Letter Symbolism

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In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author makes it clear the main idea is sin and guilt. In the puritan world sin is typically punished with death or embarrassment. Embarrassment is the punishment Hester Prynne was punished with. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbols throughout the book to support the main idea. Three symbols in The Scarlet Letter that supports this main idea is: The letter “A,” Hester’s daughter Pearl, and colors.

The most obvious symbol is the scarlet letter A. In this novel, Hester Prynne was once married to a man who sent her to America and later he promised to follow after he finished with business. Hester Prynne does not hear from her husband for several years and eventually commits adultery. The Puritan council decided to embarrass her and make her wear a scarlet “A” embroidered on to her bosom for the rest of her earthly life. The puritans see this letter as a punishment for her crime of adultery. Hester sees it as humiliation and banishment. Sometimes even little pearl gets caught up with the “A” and seems to intentionally torture her mother with it. It’s written “One day, as her mother stooped over the cradle, the infant’s eyes had been caught by the glimmering of the gold embroidery about the letter.” That’s showing Pearl has even made the “A” become part of her mother. Even towards the end of the story, in the forest when Hester takes off the “A” Pearl gets uncomfortable and causes a scene because she doesn’t believe it’s her actual mother. The “A” became part of their relationship. When she was at Governor Bellingham’s mansion, she looked into the breastplate of a suit of armor and the only thing that was magnified was the “A.” Hester was horrified to see this was her identity, the scarlet letter “A”, her sin, identified her. Even though the scarlet letter is supposed to make her feel guilty and show sin it starts meaning more than that. So every time she looked in the mirror or saw her daughter staring...
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