The Significance Of Individualism In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1338 Words 6 Pages
The novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne takes place in the Puritan Age during the 17th century. Hester Prynne, the protagonist, is isolated from society for committing adultery with Dimmesdale and is forced to live a life of shame and judgement. The scarlet letter “A” that burns upon her chest is a continuous reminder of her sin. Throughout his novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of symbolism with the scarlet letter “A” reflects the overall theme that individualism will lead to freedom of one 's self from society.
The scarlet letter “A” is a significant symbol that holds multiple meanings throughout the novel. In the beginning, the letter is seen as nothing more than a symbol of her sin. Hester wears it in pure shame as society
…show more content…
According to George E. Woodberry, the scarlet letter has “the brilliant and rich effect, startling to the eye and yet more to the imagination as it blazes forth with a secret symbolism and almost intelligence of its own. It multiplies itself, as the tale unfolds, with greater intensity and mysterious significance” (Woodberry, paragraph 2). Woodberry personifies the scarlet letter as an intelligent, intense, yet mysterious object that captures the minds of readers. Through the course of the story, Hester is always seen wearing the scarlet letter upon her chest. The letter “A” became a piece of her identity because the one moment she took it off to be free, she was different. Pearl did not recognize her mother without the badge and refused to acknowledge that this woman, in fact, is her mother. Hester reasons that “Pearl misses something which she has always seen me wear.... with these words, she advanced to the margin of the brook, took up the scarlet letter, and fastened it again into her bosom” (Hawthorne, 189-190). The letter has become part of Hester’s daily appearance since she committed her sin. When she wears it now, Pearl sees the worth the scarlet letter holds in the positive way. After 7 years, the scarlet letter came to mean something of strength and ability. Society is able to overlook her sin and finally look at her as the brave person she became. People commonly mention “‘Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge?’ they would say to strangers. ‘It is our Hester, - the town 's own Hester, who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted’” (Hawthorne, 147). Over the years, it is clear that Hester has been a good person and she is now being credited for her actions. Here in the end, the scarlet letter illustrates the positive qualities of Hester as she is praised. People who

Related Documents