Premium Essay

The Symbolism of the Letter in the Scarlet Letter

In: English and Literature

Submitted By iRachel
Words 1504
Pages 7
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter includes many profound and

important symbols. This device of symbolism is portrayed well in the novel,

especially through the scarlet letter "A". The "A" is the best example

because of the changes in the meaning throughout the novel. In the

beginning of the novel, the scarlet letter "A" is viewed as a symbol of sin.

The middle of the novel is a transition period, where the scarlet letter

"A" is viewed differently.

In the commencement of the novel, the letter is taken as a label of

punishment and sin. Hester Prynne bears the label of the letter upon her

chest. She stands as a label of an outcast in front of society. She is

wearing this symbol to burden her with punishment throughout her life. She

stands on a plank where her punishment is given, "'Thus she will be a

living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon

her tombstone'"(59). Society places its blames upon this woman. It is

because of this one letter that Hester's life is changed. The letter's

meaning in Puritan society banishes her from her normal life. The Puritans

view this letter as a symbol of the devil. The letter also put Hester

through torture: "Of an impulse and passionate nature. She had fortified

herself to encounter the stings and venomous stabs of public contumely

wreaking itself in every variety of insult but there was a quality so much

more terrible in the solemn mood of popular mind, that she longed rather to

behold all those rigid countenances contorted with scornful merriment and

herself the object"(54). This implies that Hester's sin of bearing a child

without the presence of a husband will always be remembered.

In the middle of the novel is a transition period where the letter

"A" is viewed differently than...

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

...Symbols in the Scarlet Letter Colors can represent many things; for example it can represent the emotions someone is feeling or to describe something or to simply determine whether a food is going to be eaten. Another example would be a funeral; everyone knows that it’s appropriate to wear black because it’s a time to mourn and sorrow for a lost loved one, but if someone were to wear black to a wedding it would portray to be inappropriate because weddings are created to be a time full of joy and new beginnings. Colors are used in present day to represent things, yet they were just as useful hundreds of years ago, for instance; the 1600’s. In the 1600’s, the Puritan society represented a community that was gloomy and dark while also being full of strict rules and “perfect” people who did not sin. In The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he uses the main character, Hester Prynne, as a representation of the Puritan society by using symbolism in two ways: the scarlet letter itself and the forest. To begin with, Hester Prynne was accused of adultery while her husband was gone from Massachusetts, her home town. Because of this accusation, she was forced to pin a bright red scarlet letter on her chest. This scarlet letter stood out in front of people’s eyes whenever she was around. Now as a Puritan, it was forbidden to sin. They believed that sinners were working with the devil to finish any undone business he had left. It was a rule with the Puritans to have an...

Words: 1006 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Scarlet Letter - Symbolism

...Hon Eng 10 The Scarlet Letter Authors use literary devices such as foreshadowing, imagery, and symbolism to add depth to their stories. Foreshadowing is the use of phrases and words to hint at something that will occur in the future. In using imagery, authors use words and phrases to create mental pictures in the reader’s mind. Symbolism is the use of objects, gestures, and traits to represent entirely different from the literal sense. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorn utilizes symbolism to represent multiple layers of meanings throughout the novel. These symbols have more significant meanings than the mundane and express ideas and beliefs at a much deeper level. A symbol that is present throughout the novel is the scaffold. In construction, scaffolds are used to provide support. These scaffolds motivate and enable those standing on them to stay on task and purpose. In Hawthorne’s novel, the scaffold is the location where truth is to be supported and moved forward. It is the place where truth comes forth and is examined. Those who stand on the scaffold are forced to face the truth and evaluate what is in their hearts. The first time, the scaffold represents Hester’s shame in having a Pearl from an adulteress affair. The second time, Hester and Pearl join Dimesdale on the scaffold in his futile attempt in admitting his involvement with Hester. The last time the scaffold is mentioned in the novel, Dimesdale, openly admits the secret that he is Pearls father in the......

Words: 594 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Scarlet Letter Pearl Symbolism

...In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, he exploits the symbolism of colors to develop Pearl as a character. At Pearl’s birth and beginning years, she is described as “white and clear” (Hawthorne 136) due to how pure Pearl was. As the years went by, Hester’s passion caused a change within Pearl. The white for purity transformed into “deep stains of crimson and gold” (Hawthorne 136). The colors symbolic of love and compassion began to develop within Pearl, eventually creating Pearl’s desire to protect Hester. This desire can be seen when both Hester and Pearl travel to see the governor. During their journey little kids threatened to hurl mud at the both of them but Pearl bolted towards the kids and “put them all to flight” (Hawthorne...

Words: 433 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Example Of Symbolism In Scarlet Letter

...The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne “The Scarlet Letter” written by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a historic novel that shows how symbolism plays a role not only in a novel, but in life itself. The Scarlet Letter begins in the seventeenth century in Boston, Massachusetts during the time of the Puritan settlement. The Scarlet Letter tells the life story of Hester Prynne who is a loving and passionate woman, but however gets mistreated because she sin. Although, Hester faces criticism and judgment throughout her community she decides to stay, deal with the hatred, and the feeling of being alone for the rest of her life. The scarlet letter takes place in the seventeenth century during the puritan settlement in Boston. Hester Prynne and her...

Words: 1190 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Symbolism of the Black Man in "The Scarlet Letter"

...FINAL WORD TRACK ANALYSIS- THE BLACK MAN In The scarlet letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne has used “Black Man “to signify evil and darkness. The Scarlet letter is based on the sins of the puritan society. The word “Black Man” refers to the “Satan” who is the devil. Many religions believe it to be an incarnation of God in a human or animal. Puritans and Christians believed it to be a devil dressed in black, who haunts the forest and tempts people into signing their name in his book with their own blood as ink. The word “Black Man” is used for the first time by Hester Prynne in chapter 4 while conversing with Roger Chillingworth. She says “art thou like the Black man that haunts the forest round about us? Hast thou enticed me into a bond that will prove the ruin of my soul?” .Hester Prynne doesn’t trusts Roger Chillingworth and believes he is trying to take his revenge. Roger Chillingworth has asked Hester to keep his identity a secret. Hester Prynne knows something will be wrong because of this bond but still she makes the deal because she has no choice. This is said in chapter 14 in another conversation between Hester and Roger. The bond here is referred to the Black man’s bond where Roger Chillingworth has been compared to the Black man and has made a deal with Hester. The word Black man is used once again by Mistress Hibbins in chapter 8. Mistress Hibbins has been suspected of being a witch. She says, “There will be a...

Words: 782 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Woods Symbolism In Scarlet Letter

...In the book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne uses many symbols throughout the book that help give a contrast to the outside world. One of the symbols that he uses is the woods that represent a place of evil but also privacy. When Hester enters into the woods with Pearl, Pearl mentions a story about a Black Man who “ haunts the forest and carries a book with him... this ugly Black Man offers this book and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among the trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood” (p. 161). When hearing this quote, it sounds as if the devil is living in the woods and that is the man that Pearl is talking about. Whenever people think about the devil their minds immediately go to thinking...

Words: 370 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Scarlet Letter Pearl Symbolism

...“The Scarlet Letter” by Hawthorne was a very symbolic read. There was very many things in the book that called to have meaning somethings like the meteor, the scarlet letter, the forest, the black man and the prison door and even pearl were all things that had reason and meaning. Somethings more meaning than others but all are very important to the story without one it wouldn’t be just quite right. Hawthorne used a lot of symbols to show what scenes and events during the story meant. The most important symbol in the book is Hester's living version of the scarlet letter pearl. Pearl is a symbol in many ways the biggest way is being a living version of the scarlet letter for hester. Mainly pearl is there to be a symbol to remind hester of what...

Words: 287 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Sin And Guilt In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

...The Scarlet Letter In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, A young woman named Hester Prynne in Boston is prosecuted for adultery. To symbolize her crime, she has an “A” imprinted on her bosom. As a result of her committing adultery, she and Reverend Dimmesdale (his identity is not identified until later in the book) have a child. She is a very curious child, and her name is Pearl. Roger Chillingworth, comes to see Hester on the scaffold and he doesn’t want his identity revealed either but it does get revealed in later chapters. In the Scarlet letter, the author uses different symbols, literary devices, and themes that help Nathaniel’s purpose of writing. Symbolism A symbol in the Scarlet Letter is literally the Scarlet Letter...

Words: 823 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Rhetorical Devices Used In The Scarlet Letter

...In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses rhetorical devices in a unique manner to add depth to the story plot that goes much deeper than an adulterer and her consequences. The use of these devices is what makes the novel worth reading. In the novel, irony aimed at the puritan actions which Hawthorne had strong opinions about. Also, the symbol of the scarlet letter plays a key role throughout the novel which surprisingly is transformed into something new. Lastly, out of many devices, another device used is diction. Hawthorne cleverly chooses specific words and phrases to lock in the reader to look deeper into what he is really trying to convey. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, religion has a very strong influence over the community and society in which Hawthorne uses irony to project the...

Words: 902 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

What Does The Forest Symbolize In The Scarlet Letter

...The Scarlet Letter Essay In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne effectively conveys his message through his continual use of powerful symbolism throughout the novel. Hawthorne uses copious symbols throughout the book that represent a broader meaning, such as the scarlet letter and the meteor. For example, Pearl’s name is allegorical of her character and the price her mother paid. An actual pearl is not completely white. This demonstrates how Pearl is not entirely pure and has a tendency to be an “elfish” child. Pearl is also correlated to the rose bush near the prison. Hawthorne states, “The child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses” (Hawthorne 90). She relates to this because although Pearl is beautiful, she can have her “thorns.” In the novel, Hawthorne states, “But she named the infant “Pearl,” as being of great price,--purchased with all she had,--her mother’s only treasure” (Hawthorne 73). This...

Words: 638 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

How Does Hester Constraint Symbolize In The Scarlet Letter

...Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolic imagery in the novel of The Scarlet Letter in order to demonstrate the failure of the oppressive Puritan society. Hester Prynne, a Puritan woman, moved to New England while her husband stayed behind in England. While she was alone, she had an affair with Reverend Dimmesdale and they have a daughter named Pearl. In the Puritan society, Adultery is one of the utmost sins that can be committed. When it became known that Hester was an adulteress, she was sentenced to prison and public punishment. Due to the oppressive nature of the Puritan society, Hawthorne writes of the Puritans’ forcing Hester to wear a scarlet “A” upon her chest to make her sin aware to everyone. Through his use of contrasting symbolism, Hawthorne...

Words: 1778 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

Scarlet Letter Precis

...and a Lusting Divine: Sources for The Scarlet Letter" The title of the article is "A Red-Hot A and a Lusting Divine: Sources for The Scarlet Letter" by author Fredrick Newberry. It was originally printed from The New England Quarterly in June 1987. The article's thesis states "Although the appearance of this law so late in the century might seem anomalous to the 1634 setting of "Endicott and the Red Cross" or to the 1642-49 setting of The Scarlet Letter, we may easily resolve the discrepancy by assuming either that Hawthorne had been influenced instead by the early seventeenth-century case of Goodwife Mendame, sentenced to wear an AD on her sleeve, or that, contrary to his usual practice, he felt the need in this instance to take liberties with the historical record." Fredrick Newberry establishes that Hawthorne was influenced by cases in earlier time periods to create his novel. Newberry makes a point to tell us The Scarlet Letter was not the first case in which someone was publicly humiliated and shunned by being forced to wear letters of their sin (particularly adultery) on an article of clothing. There are several comparable cases where an individual was branded with the letter A, Mary Batcheller and Goodwife Mendame's cases are a few to name. Mary Batcheller's case originally appeared, October 15, 1651 in Maine's records where it states she would be given 40 strokes and six weeks after her delivery be branded with the letter A. Goodwife Mendame, in the early......

Words: 507 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Individual Freedom: the Scarlett Letter

...North American Literature 2014-2015. Individual Freedom restricted by Puritans. Analysis of Hester, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. [Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlet Letter] ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to analyze how Nathaniel Hawthorne deals with the theme of freedom focusing on the major characters such as Hester, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. I argue that, there is a sign of individual freedom due to the fact that all the characters have the right to act in the way they do it but they will be always suppressed by the decisions of the Puritans. I also argue that, there is no collective freedom in terms of society because Puritanism restricts, punishes and judges individual actions. Key words: major characters, individual freedom, suppressed, no collective freedom. The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850, is constructed by the main themes of isolation and suffering. Moreover, sin and the Puritan law are narrowly connected, making the wish of freedom almost an impossible achievement. Over the course of the novel, Hester is the only one who truly manifests her right of individual freedom. However, she has been punished by the Puritan law, which considers her attitude as a threat to the Puritan community and its religion. Hester’s freedom starts since the moment she decides to carry her punishment in New England and not going back to England, where she could have lived a new life without feeling guilty. Furthermore, her......

Words: 1186 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Rhetorical Devices Used In Scarlet Letter

...It was a commonality for Puritans to be publicly whipped, pay fines, and be placed on a scaffold in front of others. In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the many sinful would even inflict self-damage on themselves . The Scarlet Letter affirms the importance of work ethic and virtuosity of life. Hawthorne exercises the device of rhetorical irony and symbolism throughout the book which is supported by other devices such as pathos and abstract ideas to reveal the effects of sin on the Puritans. The Puritan way of life is distinctive from what we see today. Hawthorne establishes symbolic elements in the introduction of the wild rose bush. Hawthorne describes the bush as a possible ¨sweet moral blossom.” Hawthorne then starts with 1st...

Words: 736 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Sin In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

...Many people commit wrongdoings at some point in their life. Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter  are no exception. These wrongdoings contribute to an overall theme of the novel. This theme is sin. There are many symbols in the novel that draw attention to this theme, such as color and the scarlet letter. There is more symbols that are present in the novel and have high importance, however these two stand out significantly. Through instances involving Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth, color and the mark of the scarlet letter drive the theme of sin within the novel.     Hester’s relationship with her scarlet letter is a distinct example of how the symbol of the...

Words: 645 - Pages: 3