Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Symbolism can be defined as a figure, character, or object that is used to represent complex or abstract ideas. By expressing an idea in the form of an image, the reader can visualize the concept more concretely. The old expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” applies to symbolism as the author creates a visual representation of ideas. The use of symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter helps to illuminate the overall meaning of the work. At the beginning of the book, the reader is introduced to a dark and gloomy town that had first built a prison and a cemetery. Amidst the depressing landscape, is a beautiful rosebush. “But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-hush,…show more content…
Since Hester and Dimmesdale committed adultery, they are trapped in their life of isolation and misery. Just as Hester did during her imprisonment, she and Dimmesdale are like the prisoners staring out at the rosebush, dreaming of salvation and freedom. Later in the book, Pearl states that she was plucked from the rosebush and was born. Because of this, Pearl is the key to salvation for Hester and Dimmesdale, just as the rosebush is the key to salvation for the hopeful prisoners.
The scarlet letter “A” was placed upon Hester Prynne’s bosom to openly and literally symbolize the adultery she committed. This letter was intended to make her ashamed of the sexual sin she had done when she bore an illegitimate child. The scarlet letter was a physical reminder for Hester and for her community of her sinful actions and how different she was compared to her Puritan society. Hawthorne stated that the scarlet letter placed on Hester’s bosom was made of “fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread,” done with enormous artistry, showing “fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy” on the part of its creator” (Hawthorne 53). “It sets Hester completely apart from the rest of the community, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself” (Baym 15)
Consequently, the letter became not a symbol of shame but a symbol

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