Use of Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Use of Symbols in The Scarlet Letter

In many stories, symbols included by the author add deeper meaning. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one author who mastered the skill of using symbols effectively. The Scarlet Letter is regarded as a "symbolic masterpiece" due to Hawthorne's exceptional use of the scarlet letter, the setting, and Pearl as symbols.

One of the main symbols of the novel is the basis for the title of the novel itself. Hester Prynne's scarlet letter is attached to her dress, and appears "in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery with fantastic flourishes of gold thread" (Hawthorne 60). The letter is said to have "the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with
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Hawthorne states that Man chooses to represent Hester's sin with a cloth letter, but God represents the sin with a human child (91-92). The existence of Pearl compared with the scarlet letter shows idiosyncrasy in the Puritan ways of punishment.

Aside from the letter, Hester's surroundings also bear symbolic meaning. One of the first elements of setting that the reader encounters is the rosebush directly outside of the prison door. Hawthorne uses the bush as a contrast point to his bleak, dark description of the prison:

But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rosebush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and beauty to the prisoner as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him. (56)

Hawthorne actually suggests possible symbolic interpretations of the rosebush in this passage. The roses, or "delicate gems" of the bush, symbolize a faint glimmer of hope to the prisoner entering the prison (56). They also symbolize, as Hawthorne says, the pity and kindness of Nature (56). Here, Hawthorne suggests that Nature and other more divine elements could have pity, even when humans cannot. Thus, Hawthorne seems to mock the Puritan beliefs by suggesting that God may forgive sin, despite the Puritan beliefs and form of

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