Books and Movies Reviews

scarlet letter symbols

Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most prolific symbolists in American literature. In literature a symbol is most often a concrete object used to represent an idea more abstract and broader in scope and meaning. In the Scarlet Letter Hawthorne has many of these symbols but in order to understand his novel the scarlet letter A, light and darkness, and the settings of the novel must be analyzed with the purpose of relating them to the novel's major themes.
The scarlet letter A is one of the most obvious symbols, but it has various meanings throughout the book depending on its context.All through the book the letter symbolizes adultery, penance, and penitence. Hester, who wears the letter A, goes through suffering and loneliness and also is rejuvenated. It appears throughout the bookfirst in the preface as a material object, then it becomes an elaborately embroidered A which Hester wears. It also appears in the armor breast-place at Governor Bellingham's mansion. These letter A's in these part's of the book show that Hester is hidden by this enormous, exaggerated symbol as her life and feelings are hidden behind the sign of her sin. Later in the book the letter A appears in the sky as a vast red letter, also as a green A of eelgrass which Pearl had made. Even later it appears on Hester's dress which was decorated by Pearl with prickly burrs, and on Dimmesdale's chest, and finally is seen on the epitaph at the end of the book "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules" (179). In all of these examples, the meaning depends on both the context and sometimes even the interpreter. For example, when the community sees the scarlet A in the sky they see it as a sign that the dying Governor Winthrop has become an angel, while Dimmesdale sees it as a sign of his secret sin. Another example is the community sees the letter on Hester's bosom as a mark of her punishment and also as a mark to deter others…

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