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Hawthorne’s Use Of Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

605 words - 2 pages

Hawthorne's prolific use of symbolism in his works is what characterizes him as a great writer of American Literature. Hawthorne develops his symbols as if they were actually actors in his story. Hawthorne's symbols are the essence of The Scarlet Letter.The Scarlet Letter "A" is the central symbol of the novel. It is intended to serve as a form of punishment for Hester Prynne's forbidden act of passion. It stands for "Adultery," and is meant to be a constant source of torment. The vagueness of the symbol, however, allows its meaning to evolve as the novel progresses, thus "the scarlet letter had not done its office" (Hawthorne 160). Later on, the letter comes to stand for "Able," as Hester is "Able" to overcome hardship, live through the shame, and thrive in the hypocritical Puritan society. Towards the end of her life, the letter grows to mean "Angel", and "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which the attracted world's scorn and bitterness" and it was even "looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too." (260). The scarlet letter also forges a link between the characters. Pearl, for instance, can't see her mother without it; the scarlet letter had become a part of her mother.The scaffold is another important symbol in the novel. It symbolizes Judgment Day and repentance. Hawthorne uses it whenever the plot takes a shift, as a sort of turning point, "each of the scaffold scenes brings together in a moment of moral, emotional, and psychological tension the major characters and forces of the story" (Martin 109). At the beginning, the scaffold is where Hester is sentenced to stand for three hours, as a kind of social punishment. Later, Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold as a place where he can escape from the anguish of his concealed transgression and the evil-hearted schemes...

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