Alls one with us.
This is the second of the three essays and discusses symbolism in the novel.
Throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a few key symbols to represent major themes in the book. The most obvious and well known, as it is in the title, is the scarlet letter Hester is forced to wear. Three other symbols are the scaffold, the sun, and the forest.
To begin with, the most important and influential symbol in the entire book is the infamous scarlet letter, hence the title, The Scarlet Letter. Hester plans to skip town and go back to Europe with Dimmesdale.
Throughout the book, there are various meanings to the scarlet letter.
Regardless, the true duty was to punish and teach a lesson, neither of which the letter performed successfully. Another one we see early in the novel, at about the same time we see Hester wearing the scarlet letter for the first time in public, is the scaffold on which she stands after walking out of the prison.
The scarlet letter as a tragedy very ideal of ignominy was embodied and made manifest in this contrivance of wood and iron. The scaffold, like the scarlet letter, to the Puritans, is a place of public shame for those persons who decide to break the Puritan Law. It represents the sin of the person standing upon it and it shows the Puritan way of dealing with sin.
Among the other symbols we see in the book is the sun and its shining. Its importance becomes more evident as the book comes to a close, but the earlier parts of the book are used to build up its significance.
Throughout the book, we see that the sun shines on Pearl quite often, but never on Hester. Then, in chapter 18, we see Hester and Arthur talking in the forest. After deciding to go to England and live as a family Arthur, Hester, and Pearl there, Hester takes off the scarlet letter, to show that she is no longer bound by it.
The objects that had made a shadow hitherto, embodied the brightness now. Because God has control over nature, He is happy with them.
Although I think this is what Hawthorne tries to convey when he mentions sunshine over and over, his reasoning is incorrect. Many people say that Hester and Arthur never committed adultery because Hester, in their minds, was never actually married. The Bible says in Matthew 5: The last of the four major symbols in the book is the forest.
By saying this, Hester is continuing the belief of the Puritans in the story, who see the forest as dark, or evil, as the place where the witches go at night to have meetings, and a home of the devil.
A possible interpretation of why the Puritans made up things about the forest could be that they were trying to keep the people from the Natural Law — they wanted people to be subject to the Puritan Law.
I think this is what Hawthorne is trying to get across, but, as with the last symbol and the common interpretation of it, I think he errs in his point. As we discussed in class, Hawthorne tries to make the Puritans look bad. This is where Hawthorne errs. In closing, Hawthorne uses several symbols to portray themes and ideas in this novel.Benjamin Kilborne 53/2 SHAME CONFLICTS AND TRAGEDY IN THE SCARLET LETTER Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letterhas much to teach psycho- analysts and psychotherapists.
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