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Symbolism In Writings Of Nathaniel Hawthorne

1171 words - 5 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne often employed symbols in his stories.

The literary term symbol is like an allusion placed in an image, action, thing or person ("images and symbols"). Symbols may be hard for readers to discover. It can be seen with the eye or not visible. One source described it as "a word or object that stands for another word or object" ("Symbol"). A Handbook to Literature states that "a symbol is something that is itself and also stands for something else" (509).

Nathaniel Hawthorne is well known for using symbols of nature in many of his stories. In My Kinsman, Major Molineux, lead character, young Robin, comes to town with the expectation of a distant relative handing him a silver spoon. In this story Hawthorne uses the light and dark to represent good and evil. When Robin first arrives in town "It was near nine o'clock of a moonlight evening" (584). In this description early on we see the contrast of light and dark combined. It is nine o'clock and it is evening, however the light of the moon was shining. This shows the uncertainty of Robin's journey early on; he is doubtful, hesitant and shady. Robin ends up walking for a very long time in the dark. He is given several opportunities to rethink his intentions. The people he comes in contact with all have some symbolism of good versus evil, including the half naked housekeeper, representing temptation, and the gentleman that led him to the church who is described as having "One side of his face blazed of an intense red, while the other was black as midnight" (591). Hawthorne is giving Robin a chance to think about his purpose in life and choose a different path. Robin ends up at a church which is a pivotal turning point in the story. The church is the ultimate symbol of redemption or "purity" (591). Here the ultimate light shines in and is described as "moonbeams" or "heavenly light" (591). This is Hawthorne's way of showing Robin his last chance to make the right choice, to become a man and make his own way in life. Robin chooses to ignore these signs and continue to request or demand his Kinsman's presence. Robin puts himself on a pedestal and expects everyone around him to find Molineux. Robin is rude and shows no regard for any of the people he encounters. In the end Robin is united with his Kinsman, who is "tar-and-feathered" with "torches blazed the brightest, there the moon shone out like day" (595). Hawthorne teaches a lesson in this story; Robin will not gain honor and prestige without hard work and good intentions.

In Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne, again, emphasizes good versus evil. From the very beginning, the reader is introduced to Faith, who is a real character, but also the most obvious symbol of good. This story is about all the citizens who go to church every Sunday and portray the image of perfection, but when church is over they walk out the door and the reality of sin takes over. Brown is clearly struggling with his role in...

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