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Symbolism in the scarlet letter

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Symbolism in the scarlet letter Nathaniel Hawthorne's use of recurring symbols in The Scarlet Letter, such as: Pearl, the scarlet letter 'A', and the color red, help the reader gain a clearer view of his feelings about major events and characters that present themselves as the plot progresses. Along with giving the reader insight into the true meaning of the story, the use of such symbols also allows the reader to establish a deeper understanding of the story and one of it's major themes, sin and the road to redemption. Hester Prynne's daughter, Pearl, helps establish multiple themes throughout the story. She metaphorically represents Hester's sin, punishment, and solitary path to redemption. At the same time, Pearl is the physical evidence of Hester's sin, and therefore presents her true punishment, raising the child correctly in a puritanical society. Contrary to Hester's knowledge, doing so would present her path to redemption. "But she named the infant 'Pearl,' as being of great price, - purchased with all she had, - her mother's only treasure! How strange, indeed! Man had marked this woman's sin by a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself. ...read more.


(Brackett 269) "Her breast, with it's badge of shame, was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one. She was self-ordained a Sister of Mercy, or, we may rather say, the world's heavy hand had so ordained her, when neither the world nor she looked forward to this result. The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, - so much power to do, and power to sympathize, - that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by it's original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength." (Hawthorne 107) One of the more universal symbols and consequently the one with the most occurrences is the color red. In the novel it is used not only as a symbol of pain, suffering, sin, and guilt, but it is also used as an image of beauty and elegance. The red rose outside of the prison cell that Pearl was picked from is a symbol of beauty, while at the same time symbolizes Hester's sin and represents the absence of the Lord in Pearl's life. ...read more.


Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart. On that spot, in very truth, there was, and there had long been, the gnawing and poisonous tooth of bodily pain." (Hawthorne 99) Hawthorne uses this scene to reveal to the reader that Dimmesdale, too, has some marking which shows his hidden sin and torments his soul, "the scarlet token." Chillingsworth found this on Dimmesdale's chest that night and rejoiced in happiness, for it also reveals that Dimmesdale is in-fact the final piece to the puzzle. Feeling guilty, the reverend whips his chest nightly and keeps the wound on his chest fresh so that it is the color of blood, obviously causing him also to suffer, as Hester is. In conclusion, the theme of sin and redemption in The Scarlet Letter progressed and was driven by the recurring symbols used by Nathaniel Hawthorne. More specifically three main symbols: Pearl, the scarlet letter 'A', and the color red. Not only do these help to evolve the theme and plot of the novel, they also give the reader insight into Hawthorne's views and feelings of specific events and characters. ...read more.

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