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Hawthorne's Use Of Symbols To Emphasize Conflicts Present In The Scarlet Letter.

1211 words - 5 pages

The scarlet letter is Hester's passport into regions where other women dare not to tread for fear of being ostracized by the Puritan community. This is one symbol used in The Scarlet Letter to illustrate how society affects individuals' actions and beliefs. Some symbols have a greater impact than others because they hold a deeper, more direct meaning. Through the use of symbols, such as the scarlet letter, the scaffold, and Pearl, Nathaniel Hawthorne makes the conflicts between individuals and society more apparent by proving the superiority of natural law.Symbols are used throughout the novel to create a deeper understanding of human nature's role in societal judgments. Symbols such as the scarlet letter and the scaffold hold multiple meanings, while others, like Pearl and the rosebush, repeat their singular meaning throughout the novel. Pearl, who claims to be "plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door," represents Hester and Dimmesdale's love and shame (76). This bush of wild roses is used to represent the "sorrow and human frailty" caused by their act of love (34). Pearl can also be considered an example of sorrow and human frailty since she is also a "emblem and product of sin" (64). The scarlet letter, on the other hand, changes meaning from "its original signification [of Adultery]" to "Able, [because] Hester Prynne was, with a woman's strength, so strong" (111). At times it almost means 'Honor', foreign "bond-servant[s], perhaps judging from the glittering symbol in her bosom, [believed] that she was a great lady in the land" (71). The scaffold is used by society to represent their system of justice and way of punishment, while, for Dimmesdale, it is portrayed as a place of redemption, or where he can go to obtain salvation and 'get away' from the constraints of society. Since these man-made symbols of prosecution hold no specific meaning and can even, in certain aspects, be looked upon as honorable memoirs, they are hardly significant compared to the symbols portraying humanity's own natural way of punishing sinners.The conflict of person versus society is introduced early and developed greatly throughout the novel. Hester's public humiliation on the scaffold, directly after the discovery of the affair, is the earliest of the clashes between individuals and the society. She is, however, able to question society and its outlandish rules in her mind. The conflict of her questioning society arises and grows stronger throughout the novel, yet Hester is able to "conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society" while also "speculat[ing] the most boldly" (113). As the story develops, Dimmesdale finds that the "anguish in his inmost soul" formed by hiding the affair from the strict society becomes his only "real existence on this earth" (100). He becomes so caught up in society and its senseless laws that he cannot deal with the natural laws he must follow in order to succeed as a...

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