Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1157 Words 5 Pages
Symbols in The Scarlet Letter

In nearly every work of literature, readers can find symbols that represent feelings, thoughts or ideas within the text. Such symbols can be found in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne's book about an affair between a woman named Hester and a minister named Arthur Dimmmesdale is full of feelings of sin, guilt, hate, secrecy, and honesty. There are many symbols within the novel that can be interpreted to represent the key topics of the book. Each of these symbols is an important part of the story, and connects to the situations that occur around them. The main ideas of the novel are represented by recurring symbols in the text; the scaffold, scarlet letter, and
…show more content…
He admits this to Pearl as they stand on the scaffold. (p.158). The third and final time that the scaffold portrays feelings of guilt and shame is in the last chapter. Dimmesdale finishes his sermon and climbs the scaffold stairs. To the dismay of the watching crowd, he makes his confession "with a voice that rose over them, high, solemn, and majestic -- yet had always a tremor through it, and sometimes a shriek, struggling up out of a fathomless depth of remorse and woe." (p287) The events that occur at the scaffold make it the perfect symbol for the impressions of shame and guilt throughout the book.

The scarlet letter that Hester is forced to wear because of her sin serves as a reminder, that the truth cannot be ignored. Hester's sin makes her an outcast from society, the puritan people don't want to be associated with a sinner. Hester is left to live alone in a cottage with no one for company but her little daughter. The reader may ask him or herself why Hester did not simply remove the letter, and move to a different town where no one knew her and restart her life. The reason is this; the letter sewn onto Hester's bosom is physically there, but it is also there emotionally. Hester cannot deny the truth to herself - every time that she looks at the letter she is reminded of what she did. Taking off the letter would be to deny that the sin occurred, and Hester simply cannot do that. When offered by Mr. Wilson
Open Document