Essay

Symbols in Scarlet Letter essays

             In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne used symbolism to show the importance of or the meaning of many things. It is demonstrated throughout the entirety of the novel. Henry James, a famous American novelist, said, "...there is, I think, too much. It is overdone at times, and becomes mechanical; it ceases to be impressive, and grazes triviality." One may feel as if Hawthorne did not overuse symbolism, but I agree with James's opinion. There are many cases in the novel that involve symbolism, which is overused. These cases include the letter 'A,' Pearl, and the scaffold.
             The first major form of symbolism, and the most obvious, is the letter 'A', which appears in various places in the novel. The main example of the letter 'A' is the scarlet letter, which is worn by Hester Prynne. The scarlet letter was the letter 'A,' which was to be embroidered onto Hester's clothing. It

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symbolized Hester's sin, adultery. There are many instances that describe the 'A' as it appears on Hester's dress. Hawthorne first describes it by saying, "-was that SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom." (p. 51) Another usage of the letter 'A' that appears in the novel appears in chapter 12. While Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl were out at night, a meteor appears in the sky in the shape of an 'A.' The reader may consider this to be symbolism because Hawthorne describes this instance by saying, "We impute it, therefore, solely to the disease in his own eye and heart, that the minister, looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter,--the letter A,--marked out in lines of dull red light."(p. 143) In this case, the 'A' may symbolize guilt that the minister may have, as well as symbolize sin. Lastly, another example of the 'A&apos...


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