The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism and Modern Interpretation

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The classic American novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne deals with many themes that were relevant in Hester Prynne’s puritanical society and remain expressed in modern day America. The promising outcomes of our negative actions are shown through many symbols in the text, prominently through Pearl and the mysterious forest. The story teaches us many lessons, but Hester teaches that although bad things can happen to people, you can turn the situation around for the better.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester’s daughter Pearl is more than just a significant character, because in the story, the ‘elf child’ can be interpreted as a symbol. At the start of the novel, Hester Prynne is outed as an adulterer in her conformed New England town when she becomes pregnant. Because society knows her husband is gone, she is immediately thrown in jail and forced to face the repercussions of her sinful actions. The evidence of her affair became apparent when she began showing signs of the unwed pregnancy, so essentially without Pearl, the conformed Puritanical society would never have known the truth. Many people would consider the baby a curse for instantaneously turning the townspeople against Hester, and it didn't help that for the first weeks of her life she certainly wasn’t a joy. When Pearl was born, she was a sickly, screaming baby, creating trouble for her mother. However after a visit from the controversial Doctor Chillingworth, Hester experiences a revolution in her baby. “How strange it seemed to the sad woman, as she watched the growth, and the beauty that became every day more brilliant, and the intelligence that threw its quivering sunshine over the tiny features of this child!” (Hawthorne 80). Pearl shows the reader that even though Hester was forced to undergo the harsh judgments of the conformed townspeople, the curse was reversed and she was blessed with a beautiful, sweet, and angelic baby. The transformation from dark to light is often seen in the...
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