The Scarlet Letter Symbols

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Rachel Matthews
Mrs. Tubbs
AP English
02 October 2012
The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a novel filled with important symbols, each with many meanings. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, knew how to express these symbolswith a creative tough. He used the “A”, the scaffold, and the prison to describe the Puritan society. The symbols or The Scarlet Letter help create a theme, the conflict, and the characters. The scarlet “A” makes its way to be the most important symbol in the novel. The “A” represents adultery, which is a violation of the ten commandments in the Puritan society. The “A” becomes the basis for the novel. Hester Prynne, the main character, committed adultery and had a child with a man that was not her husband. Because of this Hester was assigned to wear the scarlet “A” until the day she dies. Hawthorne wrote, “…fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy…” (Hawthorne, 53) to describe the appearance of the “A”. When the villagers saw the “A” on Hester’s clothing, for them it symbolized she will forever be different in their eyes. In “ The Scarlet Letter Overview”, by James C. Austin, he discusses how he believes the “A” is used too many times in the novel. He states, “ It is true that the letter “A” is overwork in the book, and the moral symbolism becomes wearisome” (Austin). But I have to disagree with Austin. I believe the “A” built the conflict of the novel. And without the conflict, the novel would not be as good as it is. Hawthorn was able to describe the “A” to a tee and also keep the readers attention. Hawthornes next major symbol in the novel is the Scaffold. The scaffold serves at the courtroom of the puritan society. Upon Hester’s verdict. She had to stand on the scaffold for three hours. While standing there, the men and women judged her...
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