Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Symbolism Pages: 3 (1047 words) Published: March 18, 2007
Symbolism in "The Scarlet Letter"

"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is full of many different themes, symbols, ironies, and conflicts. All of these aspects are crucial to the construction and dramatization of the plot. In literature, symbolism is the deepness and hidden meaning behind the story. Symbolism plays a major role in developing the themes of Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"; symbols such as the rosebush at the prison, Hester's daughter Pearl, and the Scarlet Letter itself, among many others.

The rosebush outside of the prison that Hester stayed in symbolizes many things. This is one of the first symbols that Hawthorne introduced in the story. In the way that it is wild and beautiful, yet restrained and strong, it is a representative of Hester's personality. In front of the prison, on the weed-infested plot of grass, grew the bush of roses, as described in this quote "Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-pern, and such unsightly vegetation, . . . was a wild rose-bush"(Hawthorne 31). The bush's victory over this little bit of ground symbolizes the novel's theme of strength and courage in difficult situations. The red roses blooming on its branches are symbolic and foreshadowing of the scarlet letter that Hester is to wear, as well as to Pearl's personality. In the chapter titled "The Elf-Child and the Minister", Pearl is asked who her creator is to which she responds by telling the Minister "that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door." (Hawthorne 75).

Pearl's signature part throughout the novel is to be a symbol. She is a symbol of truth and of deceit, of divinity and unfaithfulness; Pearl is the scarlet letter; the scarlet letter in human form. Her character is symbolic right down to her very name, Pearl. Its significance is its relationship to Hester's...

Cited: • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Glencoe/McGraw, 2000.
• "Pearl." Readings on The Scarlet Letter. Ed. Eileen Morey. San Diego: Greenhaven
Press, 1998. 111-112.
• "Pearl." Understanding The Scarlet Letter. Ed. Claudia Durst Johnson. Westport:
Greenwood Press, 1995. 4-6.
• "Symbolism." Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997.
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