Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 9 (3878 words) Published: January 8, 2009
Symbolism of The Scarlet Letter A symbol is a literary device which is employed to portray another object or individual. In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is most often a tangible object he uses to represent an undefined idea, complex in scope and significance. More times than not, it represents reverent, profound, or virtuous concepts of merit. From the substitution of one idea or object for another, to creations as massive, complex, and perplexing as the veil in the Minister's Black veil, are the domain symbols may encompass. Hawthorne's notable and unique use of the inanimate letter A, the scenery of the rose bush, and the settings of forest to make the characters -Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Pearl- into symbols in the novel in order to portray his moral and theme of: Be true. Be true. Be true! The red letter A is presented but whose meaning has to be deciphered. What does the letter mean? It is a question every character in the novel repeats who confronts the blatant red token and who has to deal with it. The letter A manifests in a variety of forms and places. Not only does the A manifest in various forms, but it also acquires a variety of meanings. It represents more than just the sin of adultery. Even as the original mark of adultery, the scarlet letter has a different individual meaning to the various characters. To Hester, the A is a symbol of unjust humiliation. The A magnifies in an armor breastplate at the Governor's mansion to exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be acutely the most prominent feature of [Hester's] semblance. In truth, she emerges absolutely hidden behind it.. The A grows to be larger than Hester signifying the town's view of her sin. They do not see the human being behind the scarlet letter, they only see a sinner. For Hester, the A is not only a symbol of adultery, but also a symbol of alienation. She is an outcast from society and the women treat her differently by constantly sneering at her in public. The scarlet letter is a symbol of what society wants to see and the decision to create a relativity. The townspeople soon began to accept her and believe that letter had supernatural powers. They decide that it meant able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength, that they were allowing her to remove it. Their opinion and vision of the scarlet letter changes into its complete opposite within a short period of under ten year's time. This opinion conforms according to their worldly view of convenience. To the Puritan community, it is a mark of just punishment. In the beginning of the story the letter struck fear into the society's hearts. It symbolizes the unfair humiliation she endures, such as humiliation standing on the scaffold at noon in public view. The ornately gold-embroidered A on Hester's heart, at which Pearl throws wildflowers and decorates with a border of prickly burrs. To Pearl, the A is a bright and mysterious curiosity which symbolizes her existence and the meaning behind it. In mockery, Pearl creates an A on her chest made of green seaweed which represents purity and innocence, but also signifies Pearl's future as the daughter of sinner. For Chillingworth, the A represents the need for revenge and is the spur to this quest. To Dimmesdale, the A is a piercing reminder of his the guilt engulfing his concealed sin. It drives him to punish himself and endure Chillingworth's torture. In addition, the A also symbolizes attributes other than adultery. On the night of his vigil on the scaffold, Dimmesdale sees an immense red A in the sky. It symbolizes Angel when a great red letter in the sky, -the letter A, which [the townspeople] interpret to stand for angel, as it manifests in the sky on the night of Governor Winthrop's death. One of the most dramatic of the several A's the book hints at is the A so frequently seen earlier and which Dimmesdale finally reveals to be an A on his chest by most of the spectators who witness his confession...
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