The Effective Use of Symblism in The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Effective Use of Symblism in The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is an intriguing account of a Puritan community that experiences a breakdown in beliefs. The story deals with a woman, Hester, who commits adultery with a Calvinistic minister resulting in the birth of a child (Martin 110). As compensation for her crime of passion and her refusal to name her lover, Hester is sentenced to wear an embroidered scarlet letter on her bosom. It is this letter, or secret sin, that becomes the emphasis of the novel and assumes many different roles (Martin 111). Hawthorne starts the novel by portraying the literary reality associated with the different aspects of the letter
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The Puritans are firmly against Hester's actions and feels that she has disgraced them along with herself. They feel that she must take responsibility for her actions. The effect of her punishment however is not what the Puritans had hoped to achieve. Hester's sin has grown from that of passion to one of purpose. Even with Hester's sympathetic attitude, she was not filled with regret and therefore the letter had not done its task (Martin 122). To the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the scarlet letter contains a whole new meaning. He views the letter as a constant reminder of his sin and cowardice. His guilt continues to grow as a result of his not being able to come forth in front of the community and take responsibility for his actions. His guilt and sin become magnified by his inability to stand beside Hester at the scaffold. Dimmesdale, also is ironically charged with questioning Hester and trying to convince her of the importance of identifying her fellow sinner (Hawthorne 52). He begins to feel more and more grief and it begins to affect his mental and physical state. He soon becomes weak; however, it is believed by the community to be because of his "too unreserved self-sacrifice to the labors and duties of the pastoral relation" (Hawthorne 80). When Dimmesdale is believed to be near death, the community again believes it is because "the world was not worthy to be any longer trodden by his feet" (Hawthorne 88). Dimmesdale seems to be haunted by

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