Symbols and Symbolism in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Thesis Statement and Outline

Thesis Statement: Nathaniel Hawthorne used symbolism to bring meaning into his book
"The Scarlet Letter."

I. Symbolism
A. Definition
B. Style

II. Symbolism in characters
A. Hester
B. Dimmesdale
C. Chillingworth
D. Pearl

III. Symbolism in objects
A. The scarlet letter
B. The scaffold
C. The forest
D. The brook

IV. Symbolic relations between characters and objects
A. Characters and the scarlet letter
B. Characters and the scaffold
C. Pearl and the forest

Nathaniel Hawthorne used symbolism to bring meaning into his book "The Scarlet Letter." Generally speaking, a symbol is something that is used to stand for something else. In literature, it is most often a
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He is at liberty to manipulate his

materials, to shape them freely into meaningful

patterns, so long as he does not violate the truth

of the human heart ( Waggoner p. 69 ) .

It is in the four major characters that Hawthorne's powers as a symbolist are brought into fullest play. Each of his major characters symbolizes a certain view of sin and its effects on the human heart ( Dibble p. 80 ) . Hester Prynne is warm, alive, human - so much so that it is difficult to determine just where Hawthorne's sympathies lie. She is a queenly figure who may have gotten her name from the biblical Esther. "Queen Esther is a woman of courage, beauty, dignity, selflessness. Hester Prynne has all these qualities ( Bloom, p. 121 ) ." She seems a virtual saint, a woman who walks in humility and patience but to others she is an unbending woman of pride, who glories in her sin. This glorifying of her sin is expressed the symbol she is forced to wear. Hester practices the art of symbolic overlay by which her community gives meaning and distinction to experience, and she suffers from the symbolism that she herself purveys ( Bloom, p. 130). After several years Hester, the "woman taken in adultery," rises to saintliness as she becomes an "angel of mercy" to the community but her dreams of a new order of society can find no expression in her life and resignation is all she has to take the place
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