Symbolism And Symbols In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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“She named the infant ‘Pearl’, as being of great price,-purchased with all she had,-her mother’s only treasure!” (Hawthorne, p. 74). A key symbol in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, is the meaning behind the names he chose. In the novel, some names have been given and some are chosen. When given, it means something of importance to the one who chose the name, like Hester choosing to give Pearl her name because Pearl is her one and only treasure. To quote Alastair Fowler, a literary critic and editor, “In literature, names are often doors to meaning, and words giving glimpses of the writer’s intentions.” While there are many symbols in the novel, the characters’ names are the most influential because they not only reveal certain …show more content…
Dimmesdale’s name suggests the dimming of his life throughout the novel. At the very beginning of the story the townspeople notice, “The health of Mr. Dimmesdale had evidently begun to fail” (Hawthorne, p. 99). As the story goes on, Dimmesdale’s health progressively gets worse until his death, where the dim light of his life is extinguished. Dimmesdale is also dimwitted in that he does not become suspicious when Chillingworth asks him personal and intrusive questions. After seven years of torture, Dimmesdale is still surprised when Hester tells him Chillingworth’s true identity. He even questions the validity of Hester’s statement saying, “An enemy! And under mine own roof! What mean you? “ (Hawthorne, p. 159). The word dim can also refer to the darkness that overtakes Dimmesdale in his moments of sin. He is drawn into the Devil’s power and commits a sin that haunts him for the rest of his life. The latter part of Dimmesdale’s name suggests his connection with nature. The word dale refers to a valley in nature, and Dimmesdale finds himself clearing his head on nature walks because it is where he feels the most at peace. Out in the wilderness, he knows he can be himself because no one is around except Hester and Pearl, and they are the only people who truly know him. Dimmesdale's name tells of many decisions and outcomes in his life, while Pearl’s name represents who she is to her …show more content…
Hester gives up her reputation and purity and in return receives her greatest treasure, Pearl. Hester thinks of Pearl as her “only treasure” and believes Pearl is the only reason she is still living (Hawthorne, p. 74). Pearl also brings her mother a sense of purpose to her life and has “An absolute radiance around her, on the dark some cottage floor “ (Hawthorne, p. 75). Like a bright and shiny pearl, Pearl is the light in her mother’s dark and sad world. She is also the light that comes from her mother’s moment in darkness. Pearl’s name also holds a bit of irony because pearls are supposed to be perfect and pure, yet Pearl is born from sin and supposedly is a “demon offspring” (Hawthorne, p. 81). Pearl’s childhood is hard because of being shunned and her troublesome personality, but in the same way a pearl is formed from a grain of sand and over time becomes treasure, she grows up to be a confident, beautiful, and successful woman. Pearl’s name, along with all the other character’s names, reveal specific qualities about their personalities and the outcomes of their lives. While Hawthorne includes many symbols in his novel, The Scarlet Letter, the most important symbols are the characters’ names. The names embody the characters as a whole by depicting their personalities, struggles, and destinies. By choosing names that describe the characters, Hawthorne helps the reader

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