The Effective Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Effective Use of Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Webster defined "symbol" with these words: "Something concrete that represents or suggests another thing that cannot in itself be pictured." This concept has been particularly applied to literature and used by writers throughout history. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter uses multitudes of symbols in such a manner. One of the most prominent, and most complicated, of such symbols is the scarlet letter "A". The scarlet letter "A" is a symbol of a daughter's connection to her mother, isolation, and the devil and its associations.

The scarlet letter represents Pearl's emotional attachment to Hester. For instance, Pearl is as deeply affectionate to the
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Also, the letter directly creates isolation of its bearer. The narrator speaks of the letter saying that it has "the effect of a spell, taking [Hester] out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself." (Hawthorne) Here, Hester first appears with the letter upon her, and the letter is describes as creating an encompassing zone of isolation around her. Fear is a stimulus of isolation, and the scarlet letter radiates both fear and isolation - therefore making it a powerful symbol of isolation.

Although the scarlet letter has several figurative meanings, it also has literal ones as well, such as the devil and its associations. In chapter sixteen, Pearl inquires Hester as to whether or not she has ever met the "Black Man," or forest-dwelling devil. She responds, "'Once in my life I met the Black Man!' ... 'This scarlet letter is his mark.'" Here, Hester is comparing the letter to the devil's symbol of previous presence. Moreover, the scarlet letter is an icon of Hell. When Roger Chillingworth and Hester are conversing in chapter three, Chillingworth admits that the adultery was "his folly", but he also makes a subtle remark about the letter itself, saying, "'I might have beheld the bale-fire of that
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