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Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter Symbolism

Nathaniel Hawthorne

❶One of the predominant colors is red, seen in the roses, the letter, Pearl's clothing, the "scarlet woman," Chillingworth's eyes, and the streak of the meteor. In closing, Hawthorne uses several symbols to portray themes and ideas in this novel.

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Literature: Scarlet Letter
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The very ideal of ignominy was embodied and made manifest in this contrivance of wood and iron. The scaffold, like the scarlet letter, to the Puritans, is a place of public shame for those persons who decide to break the Puritan Law. It represents the sin of the person standing upon it and it shows the Puritan way of dealing with sin.

Among the other symbols we see in the book is the sun and its shining. Its importance becomes more evident as the book comes to a close, but the earlier parts of the book are used to build up its significance.

Throughout the book, we see that the sun shines on Pearl quite often, but never on Hester. Then, in chapter 18, we see Hester and Arthur talking in the forest.

After deciding to go to England and live as a family Arthur, Hester, and Pearl there, Hester takes off the scarlet letter, to show that she is no longer bound by it. The objects that had made a shadow hitherto, embodied the brightness now.

Because God has control over nature, He is happy with them. Although I think this is what Hawthorne tries to convey when he mentions sunshine over and over, his reasoning is incorrect. Many people say that Hester and Arthur never committed adultery because Hester, in their minds, was never actually married. The Bible says in Matthew 5: The last of the four major symbols in the book is the forest.

By saying this, Hester is continuing the belief of the Puritans in the story, who see the forest as dark, or evil, as the place where the witches go at night to have meetings, and a home of the devil. She struggles with her recognition of the letter's symbolism just as people struggle with their moral choices. The paradox is that the Puritans stigmatize her with the mark of sin and, in so doing, reduce her to a dull, lifeless woman whose characteristic color is gray and whose vitality and femininity are suppressed.

Over the seven years of her punishment, Hester's inner struggle changes from a victim of Puritan branding to a decisive woman in tune with human nature. When she meets Dimmesdale in the forest in Chapter 18, Hawthorne says, "The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free.

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. In time, even the Puritan community sees the letter as meaning "Able" or "Angel. In her final years, "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too. Often human beings who suffer great loss and life-changing experiences become survivors with an increased understanding and sympathy for the human losses of others.

Hester is such a symbol. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is the secret sinner whose public and private faces are opposites. Even as the beadle — an obvious symbol of the righteous Colony of Massachusetts — proclaims that the settlement is a place where "iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine," the colony, along with the Reverend Mr. Wilson, is in awe of Dimmesdale's goodness and sanctity. Inside the good minister, however, is a storm raging between holiness and self-torture.

He is unable to reveal his sin. At worst, Dimmesdale is a symbol of hypocrisy and self-centered intellectualism; he knows what is right but has not the courage to make himself do the public act. When Hester tells him that the ship for Europe leaves in four days, he is delighted with the timing.

He will be able to give his Election Sermon and "fulfill his public duties" before escaping. At best, his public piety is a disdainful act when he worries that his congregation will see his features in Pearl's face. Dimmesdale's inner struggle is intense, and he struggles to do the right thing. He realizes the scaffold is the place to confess and also his shelter from his tormenter, Chillingworth. Yet, the very thing that makes Dimmesdale a symbol of the secret sinner is also what redeems him.

Sin and its acknowledgment humanize Dimmesdale. When he leaves the forest and realizes the extent of the devil's grip on his soul, he passionately writes his sermon and makes his decision to confess. As a symbol, he represents the secret sinner who fights the good fight in his soul and eventually wins.

Pearl is the strongest of these allegorical images because she is nearly all symbol, little reality. Dimmesdale sees Pearl as the "freedom of a broken law"; Hester sees her as "the living hieroglyphic" of their sin; and the community sees her as the result of the devil's work.

She is the scarlet letter in the flesh, a reminder of Hester's sin. As Hester tells the pious community leaders in Chapter 8, ". See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin?

Pearl is also the imagination of the artist, an idea so powerful that the Puritans could not even conceive of it, let alone understand it, except in terms of transgression. She is natural law unleashed, the freedom of the unrestrained wilderness, the result of repressed passion. When Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest, Pearl is reluctant to come across the brook to see them because they represent the Puritan society in which she has no happy role.

Here in the forest, she is free and in harmony with nature. Her image in the brook is a common symbol of Hawthorne's.

He often uses a mirror to symbolize the imagination of the artist; Pearl is a product of that imagination. When Dimmesdale confesses his sin in the light of the sun, Pearl is free to become a human being. All along, Hester felt there was this redeemable nature in her daughter, and here she sees her faith rewarded.

Pearl can now feel human grief and sorrow, as Hester can, and she becomes a sin redeemed. Chillingworth is consistently a symbol of cold reason and intellect unencumbered by human compassion. While Dimmesdale has intellect but lacks will, Chillingworth has both.

He is fiendish, evil, and intent on revenge. In his first appearance in the novel, he is compared to a snake, an obvious allusion to the Garden of Eden. Chillingworth becomes the essence of evil when he sees the scarlet letter on Dimmesdale's breast in Chapter 10, where there is "no need to ask how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom. Eventually, his evil is so pervasive that Chillingworth awakens the distrust of the Puritan community and the recognition of Pearl.

As time goes by and Dimmesdale becomes more frail under the constant torture of Chillingworth, the community worries that their minister is losing a battle with the devil himself. Even Pearl recognizes that Chillingworth is a creature of the Black Man and warns her mother to stay away from him. Chillingworth loses his reason to live when Dimmesdale eludes him at the scaffold in the final scenes of the novel. Besides the characters, the most obvious symbol is the scarlet letter itself, which has various meanings depending on its context.

It is a sign of adultery, penance, and penitence. It brings about Hester's suffering and loneliness and also provides her rejuvenation. In the book, it first appears as an actual material object in The Custom House preface. Then it becomes an elaborately gold-embroidered A over Hester's heart and is magnified in the armor breast-plate at Governor Bellingham's mansion.

Here Hester is hidden by the gigantic, magnified symbol just as her life and feelings are hidden behind the sign of her sin. Still later, the letter is an immense red A in the sky, a green A of eel-grass arranged by Pearl, the A on Hester's dress decorated by Pearl with prickly burrs, an A on Dimmesdale's chest seen by some spectators at the Election Day procession, and, finally, represented by the epitaph "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules" gules being the heraldic term for "red" on the tombstone Hester and Dimmesdale share.

In all these examples, the meaning of the symbol depends on the context and sometimes the interpreter. For example, in the second scaffold scene, the community sees the scarlet A in the sky as a sign that the dying Governor Winthrop has become an angel; Dimmesdale, however, sees it as a sign of his own secret sin.

The community initially sees the letter on Hester's bosom as a mark of just punishment and a symbol to deter others from sin. Hester is a Fallen Woman with a symbol of her guilt. Later, when she becomes a frequent visitor in homes of pain and sorrow, the A is seen to represent "Able" or "Angel. Light and darkness, sunshine and shadows, noon and midnight, are all manifestations of the same images.

Likewise, colors — such as red, gray, and black — play a role in the symbolic nature of the background and scenery. But, similar to the characters, the context determines what role the light or colors play. The Scarlet Letter 's first chapter ends with an admonition to "relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow" with "some sweet moral blossom.

In Chapter 16, Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest with a "gray expanse of cloud" and a narrow path hemmed in by the black and dense forest.

After she is released from prison, Hester remains in Boston because

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Besides the characters, the most obvious symbol is the scarlet letter itself, which has various meanings depending on its context. It is a sign of adultery, penance, and penitence. It brings about Hester's suffering and loneliness and also provides her rejuvenation.

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Essay Words | 6 Pages. Symbolism can be defined as a figure, character, or object that is used to represent complex or abstract ideas. By expressing an idea in the form of an image, the reader can visualize the concept more concretely.

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In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne used symbolism to show the importance of or the meaning of many things. It is demonstrated throughout the entirety of the novel. Henry James, a famous American novelist, said, " there is, I think, too much. Symbols and Symbolism Essay - Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - Use of Symbols in The Scarlet Letter In World Book Dictionary, a symbol is defined as something that stands for or represents something else, especially an idea, quality, or condition.

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Essay on Symbolism of the Scaffold in The Scarlet Letter Words | 4 Pages In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we notice that action only happens in a few places, among which are the forest, the market place, the governor’s residence, and Dimmesdale’s house. The most obvious and renowned, as it is in the title, is the scarlet letter Hester wears upon her breast. Three other significant symbols are the scaffold, the sun, and the forest. The most important and influential symbol in the entire book is the infamous scarlet letter, hence the title, The Scarlet Letter.