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The Effectiveness of Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
The effectiveness of symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne?s, The Scarlet Letter adds to the story. Hawthorne uses symbolism in many ways throughout this novel. By adding this marvelous feature he makes it clear to what he is trying to accomplish. The scarlet letter itself is symbolic. In this novel locations, colors, and people are all major elements of symbolism that bring out the story.
Unlink other forms of symbolism used by Hawthorne location was a key ingredient in the creation of The Scarlet Letter.
She silently ascended the steps, and stood on the platform, holding little Pearl by the hand. The ministry felt for the child?s other hand, and took it. The moment that he did so, there came what seemed a tumultuous rush of new life, other life that his own, pouring like a torrent unto his heart, and hurrying through all his veins, as if the mother and the child were communicating their vital warmth to his half-torpid system. The three formed an electric chain (181).
The scaffold is the location where most important events take place. The scaffold is, where Hester is sentenced to wear the scarlet letter, and is also the location where Dimmesdale died confessing his adultery. All public humiliation as well as punishment takes place at the scaffold. Hawthorne uses the forest is another effective use of symbolism. He shows how anything affiliated with the forest is considered evil to the Puritans, however he uses Pearl to show the forest as being beautiful and natural.
Hawthorne uses also color as another major form of symbolism. According to American Literary Classics, Outside the door of the prison, ?the black flower of civilized society,? sprung a wild rosebush in nominal of the deep sympathetic heart of Nature. Black, thus, seems to symbolize the dogmatic, harsh, and restrictive nature of Man?s law and civilized society, whereas, Red is symbolic of the open freedom of Nature. Hawthorne well placed locations help intertwines location with color and nature.
?The people strike me not as characters, but as representatives.?(James, Henry) Hester Prynne and Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale share a common trait; they both symbolize sinners. Hawthorne also stresses that Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Hester are all symbolic of liars, they are all evil in someway or another. Rev. Dimmesdale hates himself, because he is the Great Rev. who everyone looks up to but he himself is living in a total lie, so much that he is his own worst enemy. ?He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify himself? his bad deed (141).
The character of Roger Chillingworth is symbolic of his own name. ?We (Dimmesdale and Hester) are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man?s revenge has blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart (179).? This is the unpardonable sin which make Chillingworth pure evil, the devil at heart.
Pearl, Hester?s child, is symbolic of changing Puritan society. She is the out come and cause of the scarlet letter. Born of sin, rebellious to the Puritan way of life, but not evil. When Wilson first sees her, he calls her a ?Red Rose?, then letter asks he who made her. She intelligently responds without hesitation, that she was plucked off the rose bush outside the prison door.
Nathaniel Hawthorne?s, The Scarlet Letter, use of symbolism adds to the story. Without his effective use of symbolism the plot, theme, the whole novel would not flow. By allowing so many locations, colors, and people to have more than just one general meaning, allows the reader think, ?what if?. Hawthorne uses symbolism in The Scarlet Letter is so effective it urges the reader to read the novel more than once. By adding this marvelous feature he makes it clear to what he is trying to accomplish. In this novel locations, colors, and people are all major elements of symbolism that add to the story.
Bercovitch, Sacvan ?The Scarlet Letter: A Twice- Told Tale? Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 10/12/1996 Online 23 March 2000 Available: http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/nh/sb1.html. The writer talked in detailed what kinds symbolism was used and how it adds to the story. He talks of the black rose, which is obviously symbolic of evil, sin. He also says a good way to look for things that the author intended to use, as symbolism is to look for things that are referred to again and again in the text. The writer also says Chillingworth is symbolic of a scholar, one gifted with an extraordinary mind, and Hester is gifted with an extraordinary heart. He also stresses that Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Hester are all symbolic of hypocrites, they are all evil in someway or the other. ?As critics have long noted, Hawthorne bans not only the adulterous act, but the very word “adultery.”?
?Chapter Five: Hester at Her Needle? ClassicNotes 1999-2000 Online 25 March 2000 Available: http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/thescarletletter/
summ5-8.html. The writer says the symbolism of the scarlet letter is expanded in V chapter. Whereas at first it, the symbolism of the scarlet letter, represented Hester’s adultery and also her needlework skills, it now takes on two more meanings. Foremost, the letter begins to represent the hidden shame of the community. Thus preachers will stop in the street and give sermons when they see Hester. The letter therefore becomes an example of crime and acts a hindrance for others in the community. The writer also explains that most of chapter V talks about the ?symbolism between Pearl, the scarlet letter, and the red rose. Thus Pearl is called a “Red Rose” by Wilson when he first sees her. Even stronger is Pearl’s response to Wilson’s question concerning who made her, where she says that she was plucked off of the rose bush outside the prison door.? This directly tells the reader that Pearl is the person to reveal the moral element of the story, for she embodies the morality, which she will later reveal.
Hawthorne, Julian ?The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne? The Atlantic Monthly 4/1886 Online 23 March 2000 Available: http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/
classrev/scarlet.htm. The writer says the scarlet letter is the Black Man’s mark, and the first plaything of the infant Pearl. As the story develops, the scarlet letter becomes the dominant figure; everything is tinged with its sinister glare. The writer goes further to say the scarlet letters? semblance is reproduced upon the breast of the minister, where “God’s eye beheld it! The angels were forever pointing at it! The devil knew it well, and fretted it continually with the touch of his burning finger!” — and at last, to Dimmesdale’s crazed imagination, its spectre appears even in the midnight sky as if heaven itself had caught the contagion of his so zealously hidden sin. Dimmesdale cares more for his social reputation than for anything else. His self-respect, his peace, his love, his soul, — all may go: only let his reputation remain. Pearl symbolizes the inner nature of the sin itself. The writer also said last but not least, ?Pearl, as we are frequently reminded, is the scarlet letter made alive, capable of being loved, and so endowed with a manifold power of retribution for sin. The principle of her being is the freedom of a broken law; she is developed, “a lovely and immortal flower, out of the rank luxuriance of a guilty passion,” yet, herself, as irresponsible and independent as if distinctions of right and wrong did not exist to her.?
Kline, Sally ?Scarlet Letter: ?A? stands for ?adults only? ? The Journal Online 1996 Online 23 March 2000 Available: http://www.jrnl.com/guide/movies/scarlet.html. Although this review was based on the movie involving Demi Moore, it gave some really good fact about Nathaniel Hawthorne?s ?The Scarlet Letter?. Some of these facts are that the color red is a symbolic intense emotion, and black, and in the black roses, is a symbolic of evil. ?Among the indignities: the proud Prynne must wear a big red ?A? on her bodice.?
?THE SCARLET LETTER Nathaniel Hawthorne? The Penguin Group Online 25 March 2000 Available: http://www.penguinclassics.com/UK/resources/teachers_guides/
t_hawthorne_scarletltr.html. The writer basically says Hawthorne and writers of his time were nearly obsessed with symbolism. They were always searching for things in the natural world that corresponded to things emotional or intellectual. In a way, they saw nature as one gigantic living symbol. And the main symbol of Hawthorne?s book is the scarlet letter itself which the Puritans intend to mark Hester as an adulteress. But the meaning of the letter changes over the course of the novel, and some claim it no longer means what it was once intended to represent. They claim the letter stands for ?able? ?able in regards to a women?s strength. The writer also talked about symbolism being used in book as dark vs. light, dark being the concealment of sins, and light the revilement, and how it is better to be light than dark. And I don?t mean color. ?Over time, however, newcomers did not know the history of Hester’s badge and asked its significance. Some townspeople remembered its origin, but others forgot, or transformed its meaning to indicate “able”??
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