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Signs, Symbols and Portents
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Discuss the role of signs, symbols and/or portents in the work of any TWO writers on the module.
Signs and symbols can be seen in all kinds of literature. Simply put, they are a concrete representation of an abstract concept. What they represent is not always obvious: they can have one or several meanings, and their meaning can change throughout the story. Sometimes, they are used by the author to foreshadow an event. Interpreting signs and symbols can be a challenge for a reader, but it is a rewarding one: it makes for a more profound and interesting reading. In this essay, I will discuss the role of signs and symbols in the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter was first published in 1850. It is set in Boston, in the 17th century. It is the story of a woman, Hester Prynne, who has been punished by society because of her adultery. She has been forced to wear a scarlet A on her chest as a reminder of the sin she has committed. This scarlet letter, a written sign, is the novel's main subject: it is also its main symbol.
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