This is the second of the three essays and discusses symbolism in the novel.
Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else.
In literature, a symbol is most often a concrete object used to represent an idea more abstract and broader in scope and meaning — often a moral, religious, or philosophical concept or value.
Symbols can range from the most obvious substitution of one thing for another, to creations as massive, complex, and perplexing as Melville's white whale in Moby Dick.
An allegory in literature is a story where characters, objects, and events have a hidden meaning and are used to present some universal lesson. Hawthorne has a perfect atmosphere for the symbols in The Scarlet Letter because the Puritans saw the world through allegory.
For them, simple patterns, like the meteor streaking through the sky, became religious or moral interpretations for human events. Objects, such as the scaffold, were ritualistic symbols for such concepts as sin and penitence.
Whereas the Puritans translated such rituals into moral and repressive exercises, Hawthorne turns their interpretations around in The Scarlet Letter. The Puritan community sees Hester as a fallen woman, Dimmesdale as a saint, and would have seen the disguised Chillingworth as a victim — a husband betrayed.
Instead, Hawthorne ultimately presents Hester as a woman who represents a sensitive human being with a heart and emotions; Dimmesdale as a minister who is not very saint-like in private but, instead, morally weak and unable to confess his hidden sin; and Chillingworth as a husband who is the worst possible offender of humanity and single-mindedly pursuing an evil goal.
Hawthorne's embodiment of these characters is denied by the Puritan mentality: At the end of the novel, even watching and hearing Dimmesdale's confession, many members of the Puritan community still deny what they saw.
Thus, using his characters as symbols, Hawthorne discloses the grim underside of Puritanism that lurks beneath the public piety.
Some of Hawthorne's symbols change their meaning, depending on the context, and some are static.
Examples of static symbols are the Reverend Mr. Wilson, who represents the Church, or Governor Bellingham, who represents the State. But many of Hawthorne's symbols change — particularly his characters — depending on their treatment by the community and their reactions to their sins.
His characters, the scarlet A, light and darkness, color imagery, and the settings of forest and village serve symbolic purposes. Characters Hester is the public sinner who demonstrates the effect of punishment on sensitivity and human nature.
She is seen as a fallen woman, a culprit who deserves the ignominy of her immoral choice. She struggles with her recognition of the letter's symbolism just as people struggle with their moral choices.
The paradox is that the Puritans stigmatize her with the mark of sin and, in so doing, reduce her to a dull, lifeless woman whose characteristic color is gray and whose vitality and femininity are suppressed. Over the seven years of her punishment, Hester's inner struggle changes from a victim of Puritan branding to a decisive woman in tune with human nature.Characterization, Symbolism, and Irony in The Scarlet Letter Words 6 Pages The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel about a young woman who commits adultery and is forced to wear the letter A, which symbolizes adultery, on her chest.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, sunshine symbolizes the innocence of Pearl and Hester's lack thereof, in addition to its representation of honesty, freedom from sin and supposed happiness and peace.
(Click the symbolism infographic to download.) The Black Man is a euphemism for Satan in this book: Hester considers the scarlet letter A to be the Black Man's mark, and Pearl wonders aloud if the The Forest and the Wilderness.
A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism several times in the book, The Scarlet Letter. Some examples of this are when they talk of the scaffold, the brook, the forest, and the sunshine. The one that I . The Symbolic Use of Nature in The Scarlet Letter In Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter, nature plays a very important and symbolic role.
Hawthorne uses nature to convey the mood of a scene, to describe characters, and to link the natural elements with human nature.