The Scarlet Letter's
The Scarlet Letter’s is a fiction romantic work based in a historical setting. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the book 1850 which has the setting of the 17th century between the years 1642 and 1649 in Puritan Boston. The story is about Hester Prynne who struggles to make a new life of dignity and repentance because she was conceived through an adulterous affair. Symbolism has been used abundantly by the author in his novel. Symbolism plays a great role in adding a deeper meaning of the story and unifying the novel.
“A” in the Scarlet Letter stands as a symbol to the adultery act of Hester’s. The letter A also symbolizes agony according to Hester and Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale shows this agony through the bad health condition he is in while Hester’s agony is the life of isolation she lives in. as the novel comes to an end the letter A symbolizes the ability Hester has when she becomes a wise counselor, downtrodden and a generous helper of many poor people around her. Dimmedele’s hand on his chest represents the repentance of sinfulness, his aggrieved states and the nervous condition he is in (Hawthorne, p 45).
The scaffold in the novel acts as a symbol of God’s platform and penitence in the biblical prophesies of the Judgment day. It represents weakness as one approach the Almighty. This weakness and the compassions makes Dimmesdale fall to his knees and repent his sins. He had at first tried to do so in darkness but he finally come to the platform and make a confession of his sins on the scaffold before the people in broad daylight. It only after he has confessed that he attains peace.
The prison symbolizes alienation and isolation. This is in the first chapter of the novel representing the future life of Hester. Dimmesdale and Hester share a common aspect of living a confined life. Hester is confided by the alienation imprison while Dimmesdale is imprisoned by his own sinful guilt which he has not confessed. Another character Chillingsworth is a prisoner of his own vengeance. Pearl is the only character that is not confined (Hawthorne, p123).
The constant reminder of hope and salvation to the prisoners is symbolized by the rose bush apposite the prison. Pearl who sees herself as one born from the rose bush acts as the salvation to Hester directly and to Chillingsworth in an indirect way. Everyone should find salivation through Pearl because she was born in a sinful world and had to be saved. Hester’s sinful life is filled with darkness but Pearl comes in to represents light in her life.
The colors employed by Hawthorne further enhance symbolism in the novel. The gloomy and dull life of Hester is represented by the dark sable, sober clothes she is wearing. The garments represent the sorrowful and guilty life she lives full of grief. Pearl on the contrast is dressed in bright colors like crimson color which shows a person who is free spirited. The color of the letter is red which according to the puritan society represents the devil. The forest is symbolic of nature both in light and dark ways (Hawthorne, p12).The symbolic aspects in this novel can well be understood when one reads through the whole text in a critical way a discerning reader will see all the symbols used by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the novel; The Scarlet Letter’s.
Hawthorne, N (1994). The Scarlet Letter of love, New York: Dover Publications.
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