In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a few symbols to illustrate the main themes. The most obvious symbol is the scarlet letter Hester is made to wear. The forest and the wilderness are also key symbols of the story. Another important symbol is the sun. All of these symbols support the main idea of the novel.
To begin with, the most influential symbol in the entire book is the infamous scarlet letter. Hester walks out of the prison, wearing the scarlet letter ‘A’, in the second chapter. The letter was a daily reminder of shame during the first few years of her punishment. Hawthorne writes, “Hester Prynne had always this dreadful agony in feeling a human eye upon the token; the spot never grew callous; it seemed, on the contrary, to grow more sensitive with daily torture.” Although, later, the letter starts to mean other things to the people and Hester. Instead of bringing torture to her, it eventually becomes a different symbol to some people. Hawthorne writes, “They said that it meant ‘Able’; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.” Hawthorne later writes, “The scarlet letter had not done its office.” The scarlet letter was originally meant as a punishment for Hester, and it has not punished her. In chapter 18, Hawthorne then writes, “Thus, we seem to see that, as regarded Hester Prynne, the whole seven years of outlaw and ignominy had been little other than a preparation for this very hour.” However, the scarlet letter does bring shame to Hester, as Hawthorne writes, it has not fulfilled its purpose. Hester plans to leave town on a ship and go back to Europe with Dimmesdale. If she had learned anything from the letter, she would not have been attempting to run away with a man other than her husband. There are many different meanings to the scarlet letter throughout the novel. It means different things to different people. It was a sign of wealth to the butler, curiosity for Pearl, and guilt for Dimmesdale. It was rebelliousness,...
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