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The Symbolism In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Letter "A".

1585 words - 6 pages

The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism of the Nathaniel Hawthorne's letter "A"The Scarlet Letter includes many profound and important symbols. In "The Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel Hawthorne creates the symbolism of the letter "A" to have different meanings. The "A" is the best example of the symbolism used 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.When the novel commences, the letter is taken as a label of punishment and sin. Hester Prynne bears the label of the letter upon her chest. She stands labled as 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 blame 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 contumelyVaughn2wreaking 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 the letter "A" transitions to a different meaning. In this section of the novel, Hester's appearance is altered to where she is no longer seen as a person of sin. The letter changes from a symbol of sin to a symbol of "Acceeptance". Society now sees Hester as a person who is strong, yet bears a symbol which seperates herself from others. At this point, Hester has learned to deal with the letter. She has grown stronger from it; she is able to withstand the pressures of society. As she grows stronger, she becomes more opposed to being seen as a sinner. The letter's meaning has changed, "Hatred, by a gradual and quiet process, will even be transformed to love, unless the change be impeded by a continually new irritation of the original feeling of hostility"(147). This foreshadows the future events of the novel.Another view of the letter is that it portrays guilt. It portrays the guilt of Dimmesdale, the father of Hester's child. Hester has learned to deal with her punishment and grow stronger from it, but Dimmesdale, who went unpunished and is a respectable man in the Puritan society, must now live with the guilt of having a child "illegally". This guilt contributes to his weakness as novelVaughn...

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