Symbols and Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne isn't noted for perfecting any famous literary style, for writing multiple best sellers, or even for contributing largely to classic American literature. His only real claim to fame is The Scarlet Letter: a novel that was originally only meant to be yet another Hawthorne short story. Because of this, it actually possesses many short story characteristics. "It is simpler and more complete than his other novels." (James 285) It also has an excellent plot backed by an expert use of literary techniques. One technique Hawthorne used was borrowed solely from drama: the use of the aside. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale delivers an aside in the midst of the action in chapter three,
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At first, the scarlet letter meant "Adulteress" and was a sign of scorn. It was a brand used for easy identification of an untrustworthy criminal. But as time progressed, and the initial shock of such actions as adultery subsided, the townspeople, especially the women, took note of the fact that Hester had accepted the responsibility of her actions by sewing the scarlet letter herself. They also observed that she did so with unmatched precision. Eventually this made them yearn for needlepoint talent like she possessed. They began relying on her to sew exquisite patterns for them, gradually inviting her back in their society. By wearing the scarlet letter proudly, Hester had eventually changed the meaning of the "A" from "Adulteress" to "Able." The townspeople saw Hester for her inner beauty, not for the scarlet letter forever branded onto her bosom. They realized the sacrifice and pain that she went through to regain their trust and respect. Gradually, throughout the novel the scarlet letter becomes an article of pride, and Hester a woman deserving respect.

One object that holds great symbolic value is often over-looked and discarded as an unimportant detail. It is the black glove that Dimmesdale left on the scaffold after his night vigil of regret and guilt. What, on the surface, may seem as a minute, petty detail becomes rather powerful when the reader realizes that the
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