The Ambiguity Use of Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 4 (1220 words) Published: June 30, 2008
The Ambiguity Use of Symbolism in “The Scarlet Letter”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlett Letter, uses a lot of symbolism in the story that represents several meanings within the context of the story. Hawthorne uses symbolism to add greater meaning to the story. Objects such as the prison, rosebush, scaffold, meteor, forest, brook, and little Pearl are all important symbols in Hawthorne’s novel. The most obvious and principal symbol in the novel is the scarlet letter “A”, which has several meanings. Each symbol has a special significance that reveals a secret, the theme of the story and it also resembles the character’s personality.

The author opens his story with the description of the prison and the prison door. The prison is described as an “ugly edifice” and as the “black flower of civilized society” (1131). The prison is a symbol of loneliness and estrangement from the rest of the world. This “foreshadows the life that Hester will lead” even after she is released from prison. Hester lives in a “prison of alienation”. She moves away from the town, but remains near. She lives a secluded life on the outskirts of the town. Hester alienates herself from the rest of the town people and tries to avoid any contact with them because they see her as the “black flower” of their society. The prison may also represent the outcome of punishment from unconfessed sin. Reverend Dimmesdale lives in a prison of guilt and remorse because he does not have the courage to confess his sin to the people. This imprisonment of unconfessed sin deteriorates his health and peace with God. Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, also imprisons himself by his vengeance on little Pearl’s father. He is enslaved to torture and torment Dimmesdale. Throughout the novel the reader can see that his intent of revenge changes his appearance and makes him loose his reason.

As stated before, Hawthorne opens the chapter by introducing the significance of...
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