The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In the spring of 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne published what could be considered the astounding literary works of the Romantic Period of literature. The Scarlet Letter was set in 17th century Boston where most of the population was of firm Puritan faith. Hawthorne used great symbolism in his novel to convey a message of guilt, sin, and judgment. The symbols used most profoundly by Hawthorne are the various settings of the book, Hester’s daughter, Pearl, and lastly, the ever important scarlet letter endowed upon the adulterers, Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale. It is no secret that Puritans had an allegorical outlook on everything in life and The Scarlet Letter is, without a doubt, full of allegory and symbolism. Hawthorne proved that even the setting could be symbolical in his novel. There is a fine line between the marketplace and scaffold in Puritan era Boston and the heavy forest that surround it. In the middle of the marketplace, perhaps the most important structure in the whole town is centered: the scaffold. It is said that “ignominy was embodied and made manifest in this contrivance of wood and iron. (pg. 39)” The scaffold represents not only the harshness of Puritan decree, but it symbolizes the belief that sin should be out in the open and sinners should endure public shaming. The marketplace is closely associated with the scaffold, where “... iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine, (pg. 38)” and again shows how Puritans believe that sin taints the world and sinners
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