Symbolism and Character Analysis A bestselling story and a popular read even today, The Scarlet Letter is a marvelous story that comes from the mind of Nathaniel Hawthorne, a brilliant and legendary writer.
Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else. In literature, a symbol is most often a concrete object used to represent an idea more abstract and broader in scope and meaning — often a moral, religious, or philosophical concept or value.
Symbols can range from the most obvious substitution of one thing for another, to creations as massive, complex, and perplexing as Melville's white whale in Moby Dick. An allegory in literature is a story where characters, objects, and events have a hidden meaning and are used to present some universal lesson.
Hawthorne has a perfect atmosphere for the symbols in The Scarlet Letter because the Puritans saw the world through allegory.
For them, simple patterns, like the meteor streaking through the sky, became religious or moral interpretations for human events. Objects, such as the scaffold, were ritualistic symbols for such concepts as sin and penitence.
Whereas the Puritans translated such rituals into moral and repressive exercises, Hawthorne turns their interpretations around in The Scarlet Letter.
The Puritan community sees Hester as a fallen woman, Dimmesdale as a saint, and would have seen the disguised Chillingworth as a victim — a husband betrayed. Instead, Hawthorne ultimately presents Hester as a woman who represents a sensitive human being with a heart and emotions; Dimmesdale as a minister who is not very saint-like in private but, instead, morally weak and unable to confess his hidden sin; and Chillingworth as a husband who is the worst possible offender of humanity and single-mindedly pursuing an evil goal.
Hawthorne's embodiment of these characters is denied by the Puritan mentality: At the end of the novel, even watching and hearing Dimmesdale's confession, many members of the Puritan community still deny what they saw.
Thus, using his characters as symbols, Hawthorne discloses the grim underside of Puritanism that lurks beneath the public piety. Some of Hawthorne's symbols change their meaning, depending on the context, and some are static. Examples of static symbols are the Reverend Mr.
Wilson, who represents the Church, or Governor Bellingham, who represents the State. But many of Hawthorne's symbols change — particularly his characters — depending on their treatment by the community and their reactions to their sins. His characters, the scarlet A, light and darkness, color imagery, and the settings of forest and village serve symbolic purposes.
Characters Hester is the public sinner who demonstrates the effect of punishment on sensitivity and human nature. She is seen as a fallen woman, a culprit who deserves the ignominy of her immoral choice. She struggles with her recognition of the letter's symbolism just as people struggle with their moral choices.
The paradox is that the Puritans stigmatize her with the mark of sin and, in so doing, reduce her to a dull, lifeless woman whose characteristic color is gray and whose vitality and femininity are suppressed.
Over the seven years of her punishment, Hester's inner struggle changes from a victim of Puritan branding to a decisive woman in tune with human nature. When she meets Dimmesdale in the forest in Chapter 18, Hawthorne says, "The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free.
The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. In her final years, "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too.
Often human beings who suffer great loss and life-changing experiences become survivors with an increased understanding and sympathy for the human losses of others. Hester is such a symbol. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is the secret sinner whose public and private faces are opposites.
Even as the beadle — an obvious symbol of the righteous Colony of Massachusetts — proclaims that the settlement is a place where "iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine," the colony, along with the Reverend Mr.
Wilson, is in awe of Dimmesdale's goodness and sanctity.A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most prolific symbolists in American literature, and a study of his symbols is necessary to understanding his novels. Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else.
In literature, a symbol is most often a concrete object used to. (Click the symbolism infographic to download.) Hester's scarlet letter is a hardworking symbol. At various times, it symbolizes adultery, sin, hard work, skill, charity, righteousness, sacredness.
A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most prolific symbolists in American literature, and a study of his symbols is necessary to understanding his novels.
Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else.
In literature, a symbol is most often a concrete object used to. Introduction. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter has been adapted countless times for stage and film.
The most current, well-known film version of the novel, which was released in and.