During one’s life, he or she will experience many symbols that must be deciphered and analyzed on some level. Take the Christian cross for example: the cross is viewed as a symbol of the Christian faith by being a reminder that Jesus died on it to pay for the sins of believers. However, if one looks deeper, there are many other representations of this symbol as well. Symbols are unique in that they are meant to be analyzed and made into whatever one wants to believe. Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes symbols of this nature throughout many of his works. Throughout Hawthorne’s works The Minister’s Black Veil, The Birthmark, and The Scarlet Letter, many different symbols are explored, including the ways in which the act of sin is portrayed through the characters' outward appearances.
Hawthorne published his short story The Birthmark in 1843, exploring the symbolism behind Georgiana’s birthmark. The time period in this work is referred to as he Concord Period; in this movement, scientific and artistic angles are explored (Easton 131). In the story, Aylmer is married to Georgiana, who would have been a prize wife to any other man. Hawthorne explains Georgiana’s birthmark in the beginning by saying, “To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the centre of Georgiana's left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face” (Hawthorne ) ; Aylmer views the birthmark as an imperfection. Many of the women also saw the birthmark as a disgrace, stating that “…the Bloody Hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance hideous” (Hawthorne 632). Aylmer’s scientific mindset makes him believe that he can rid her of the mark, therefore making her perfect. Hawthorne portrays the birthmark as a symbol of sin and imperfection:
The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust. In this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death. (Hawthorne 633)
It is obvious that Aylmer believes that his wife’s birthmark is her sin being portrayed in her outward appearance. It can also be explained in the sense that Alymer views himself as a Christ-like figure because he can forgive her of her sin through science and seeing the removal of the birthmark as a means of purification.
In Hawthorne’s short story The Minister’s Black Veil symbolism is reveled through Reverend Mr. Hooper’s black veil. This short story was published in 1836 as part of Hawthorne’s “Twice-Told Tales” collection (Easton 249). In the small village of Millford, Reverend Hooper makes his first appearance with his veil one Sunday morning. Many of the congregation members do not like that Mr. Hooper hides his face, and they do not like the...