Nathaniel Hawthorne was a writer in the 1800s, an anti-transcendentalist, and the great-nephew of John Hathorne, a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne is obsessed with Puritanism and, due to being obsessed, bases all his writings on Puritan towns. All of his stories take place in New England in the 1600s, before the Salem Witch Trials; The Scarlet Letter is one of these stories. In his novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the symbolism of the Wild Rosebush, Hester’s Cabin, and the sunlight and the forest to contribute to the overall theme of imperfection.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses The Scarlet Letter as a forum to express his opinions of the roles of hypocrisy and truth in the Puritan society. He uses the characters, Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, to reveal how although their sin was the same, the way it affected them were quite different. In order to present this, Hawthorne uses various rhetorical strategies such as irony, diction, juxtaposition, connotation and personification. These strategies all help to convey that sin must be expressed, otherwise it can lead to self-destruction.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter, nature plays a very important and symbolic role. Hawthorne uses nature to convey the mood of a scene, to describe characters, and to link the natural elements with human nature. Many of the passages that have to do with nature accomplish more than one of these ideas. All throughout the book, nature is incorporated into the story line. The deep symbolism conveyed by certain aspects of nature helps the reader gain a deeper understanding of the plight and inner emotions of the characters in the novel.
Various novels utilize contrasting places such as two cities or land and sea to represent opposing forces or ideas that are significant to the meaning of the work. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter set in the years 1642-1649, demonstrates this technique of writing. The early American Puritan settlement of Boston, Massachusetts, where residents observe strict laws and chastise people harshly for breaking them is very different compared to the mysterious forest where heathen Indians, witches, and wild animals abide. The novel conveys the story of two people’s adulterous sin that affects their lives and the life of their illegitimate child. These three characters’ lives are drastically altered in the course of the plot between these two contrasting places. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and their daughter Pearl are each
In the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne asserts that Puritan society judges an individual largely from their exterior. Hawthorne substantiates his argument by contrasting the interior emotions and exterior visages of several characters, particularly Hester Prynne, through the use of symbolism, contrasting diction, and juxtaposition. By the contradictory existence of Hester's marble exterior and her inner emotional turmoil, portrayed by the symbol of Pearl, Hawthorne’s purpose is to juxtapose the laws of Puritan society with the sentiments of nature. The author evokes an contemplative tone for the reader.
Hawthorne’s characters symbolically transform the scaffold from beginning to end of the novel. Next the three scaffold scenes physically deteriorate with an underlying symbolic tone. Finally, the symbolic use of the scaffold throughout The Scarlet Letter leaves a lasting impression of its readers.
Hawthorne constantly reminds the reader that despite her changes that Hester makes in life, that red letter upon her chest reminds us that the crime she committed will only bring her darkness. He uses imagery and diction to show her as a puppet of true sin and how sin is the pure way to tarnish a once pure being.
The settings in The Scarlet Letter are very important in displaying the themes of the novel. The settings in this novel are almost characters, for they are an important part in developing the story. The scaffold, the forest, the prison, and Hester’s cottage are settings that show sin and its consequences result in shame and suffering.
Hawthorne chooses to have Hester overcome her struggles. At the end of the book, Hester finds at least some degree of peace. The struggles and pain she went through were not pleasant, but they did provoke her to improve her relationship with God. Her burden seems lessened and if there is nothing else for her to be joyful about, her daughter Pearl has adapted and thrived in her new life. Hester Prynne shows mercy upon the sick and does charity work even when it goes unappreciated. She gave her time and effort to help the poor even when they rebuked her as well. Her dedication to try and fix her mistakes is admirable and the reader feels as if Hester has really changed for the better. The change in Hester makes the people respect her and come to her for advice at the end of the story. In chapter 13, Hawthorne writes about how the Puritans have mixed feelings about Hester, but the majority of the people now forgive and hold her in high regard. “They said it meant ‘Able’; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.” (pg. 158) This quote shows how the interpretation of the letter and of Hester herself has changed. The new view of Hester gained by the Puritans is based on her response to the scarlet letter, a symbol meant to ruin her but in reality it made her
In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne develops the dynamic characterization of Hester Prynne from a beautiful, innocent girl into a somber, hardened women to showcase the evils and hypocrisy of Puritan New England’s culture of shaming. Hawthorne employs rhetorical devices such as metaphor and juxtaposition to further develop the characterization and his critique of Puritan society. When initially describing Hester, Hawthorne emphasizes her incredible beauty, and juxtaposes this with the other ugly, judging Puritan women, adding to the hypocrisy of her being shamed for sinning. Hawthorne emphasizes the verbal assault on Hester by employing metaphor and imagery in its description. After the community shuns and shames Hester for years, Hawthorne uses metaphor again to show how Hester’s body and character changes for the worst, emphasizes the malice and evil of public shame.
Symbolism is a literary style that uses symbols to represent ideas or qualities. Symbolism plays a very important part in The Scarlet Letter because it uses the characters to develop the main idea of the story. The symbols used by Nathaniel Hawthorne help the reader to visualize and understand the meaning of the story. Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne, Pearl, and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale as symbols throughout the book. They are the main characters of the story and they all overcome some difficulties by the end. The lives of the characters help to serve as symbols of the Puritan religion that existed during this time.
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne shows multiple connections between characters and nature. As the story progresses nature becomes more prevalent in the characters and continues to establish certain characteristics for each character. This established connection provides a view into the depths of human nature that each character portrays.
Throughout his novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne reveals character through the use of imagery and metaphor.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter expresses various themes of dark romanticism using symbolism. One of the more obvious symbols is that of the scaffold, which is present throughout the story. Upon in-depth exploration, I discovered this use of symbolism relates both literally and metaphorically to the dark romantic themes present in Hawthorne’s tale. First, let me discuss the scaffold and its constant presence in the story. The townspeople, Hester, and Dimmesdale use the scaffold on numerous occasions; most often, its use is to shame, harass, and isolate Hester Prynne so that she will confess the name of her child’s father. However, at times, the scaffold is used as a sanctuary and a confessional for others.