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Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper

Symbol of Sin In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the scarlet letter symbolizes many things. The literal meaning of symbol, is something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention. This paper will tell many of the ways in which this is true. The scarlet letter is a symbol of Hester’s sin, Dimmesdale’s self-hatred, and the town’s forgiveness. It is apparent in this novel that the scarlet “A” is a symbol of Hester’s great sin. One could see that the townspeople see the letter as a sign of her sin when a woman says “but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it!” (52) In this quote it is apparent that the women of the town are disgusted by the way in which Hester depicts her symbol. Hester, herself, sees the letter as a symbol of her own sin when she says, “Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment.” (77) In this quote, she says that instead of leaving Boston, she will stay and wear the scarlet letter as a symbol of her sin. In addition, this is an example of her sin when they make her wear the letter instead of killing her. Although some may not see how the scarlet letter is a sign of Hester’s sin, after reading these examples anyone could see the connection. The scarlet letter is a definite sign of Dimmesdale’s self-hatred. As Dimmesdale gets sick, he says, “I need no medicine.” (118) When he says this, he is saying that there is no medicine that will help him because he is not sick from illness, but from a broken heart. Furthermore, everyone thinks that he is just trying to be tough, when really he is trying to give away the secret of his “sickness”. When Hester and Dimmesdale are in the woods, and Hester asks Dimmesdale if he has found happiness, Dimmesdale responds by saying “None! – nothing but despair.” (187) When he says this, he is telling her that the past seven years have been torture. This is a result of having to hold in all the pain and agony of his sin. Even if he temporarily forgets about what he has done, he is reminded of it any time he sees his chest. This novel has shown many ways in which the scarlet letter is a sign of Dimmesdale’s self-hatred.

It is obvious that the scarlet letter is symbol of how the town has forgave Hester toward the end of the book. Toward the end of the novel the narrator says “Such helpfulness was found in her- so much power to do and power to sympathize- that many people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original signification. They said that it meant “Able”.” (158) This quote shows that the townspeople started to sympathize with her. It also shows that the townspeople are sinners too, and they are starting to come out and admit to it. The forgiveness of the townspeople is also shown when they begin to talk about letting Hester remove the scarlet letter. More and more the people are starting to forgive her. Also they are asking more things of her to make. This has shown many ways of how the townspeople have forgave her. In the novel the scarlet letter symbolizes many things such as Hester’s sin, Dimmesdale’s self-hatred, and the towns forgiveness. Although Hester’s sin was a great one according to the Puritan laws, it would seem trivial compared to some of the crimes that are committed today. Very few, if any, religions today have as severe of punishment as the Puritans had. Because of this, in society today few people abide to the laws in which our church sets.


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