The Immense Effect of Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne wrote his great, psychological novel, The Scarlet Letter, not only in the literal sense, but also symbolically to thoroughly instill his strong ideas into the minds of readers. He uses sunshine, the forest, roses, the scarlet letter, Pearl, and a prison door to portray deeper thoughts. The purpose of using symbolism rather than just telling something to the reader outright is: to makes him/her think more, delve into the true meaning of things, and to convey a much deeper image of Hawthorne’s words.The prison door conveys an intense image of the Puritanical severity of the law. Hawthorne describes the prison in The Scarlet Letter as old, rusted, yet strong with a “door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes” (34). This is representative of how the laws of the Puritans have lasted through time and are taken very seriously. Also, the description shows that there is an inability to break free from the regulations. Another thing the passage demonstrates is that the Puritans have no tolerance of deviance.A symbol of both goodness and uninhibited passion is sunshine. Hester says to Pearl, “Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee” meaning that she has no pureness to offer to Pearl, because she had committed sin, and that Pearl should obtain her own (Hawthorne 72). Another time in which the sunshine signifies innocence is when Pearl says to her mother, “the sunshine does not love you” (Hawthorne 127). The sunshine flees from Hester and only shines on Pearl, because Pearl is wholesome and innocent and Hester is not. Hester and Dimmesdale met in the forest, let go of their inhibitions, and felt free from the moral restrictions that apply in Boston, when this occurred “forth burst the sunshine,” which is indicating that their unrestrained passion had been set free (Hawthorne 140). In the forest they were able to surrender to their feelings of passion for one another.In The Scarlet Letter Boston represents morality and the surrounding forest epitomizes immorality. Hester decided to live “(o)n the outskirts of the town…not in close vicinity to any other habitation,” which displays the fact that she was in limbo between the moral and immoral universes and decided to live in both simultaneously (Hawthorne 57). The forest was a mutual place for Hester and Dimmesdale to revive their love and passion, “(s)o strangely did they meet, in the dim wood” (Hawthorne 131). The fact that Hester and Dimmesdale met in the woods proves that the forest was an immoral place where they could express their true emotions. The winding, melancholy brook in the forest represents Hester’s uncertainness about what will happen in her life. There are many things blocking her view of what is to come, the same as “(a)ll these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook” (Hawthorne 129). There is an innumerable amount of possibilities for Hester’s life, and she is unsure of which one she will choose.One thing Hester has already chosen for her life is passion, and the symbol for her passion is the rose. Outside the prison where Hester stayed for part of her punishment “was a wild rosebush” that had “survived out of the stern old wilderness” (Hawthorne 35). Connecting the rosebush to the wilderness denotes that passion is an immoral thing. Also, putting the rosebush directly outside of the prison indicates that at that point in time Hester was at the peak of her passionate state. Pearl is the offspring of Hester’s passion, “plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door,” thus Pearl and the rose are the moral elements of the novel (Hawthorne 78). Until the moral is obvious and the sin is in the open, Pearl will not be satisfied, “Pearl, seeing the rosebushes, began to cry for a red rose” (Hawthorne 75). Desperately Pearl wants everything to be morally correct and pure, and she will continue to be bothersome until that occurs.An additional bothersome entity in Hester’s life is the scarlet letter. The symbol of the scarlet letter upon her bosom has a substantial influence on Hester’s existence. An image of the magnitude in which the brand impacts her is exhibited when Hester looks into a convex mirror, “the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance” (Hawthorne 74). Because of the scarlet “A” Hester was ostracized “(i)t had the effect of a spell, taking her out of ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself” (Hawthorne 39). As a badge of Hester’s sin, the scarlet letter makes others in the community feel superior to her. The “A” also exemplifies the hidden shame of the community, “sometimes…she felt an eye-a human eye- upon the ignominious brand…as if half of her agony were shared” (Hawthorne 60-61). Hester was not the only sinner in the community; others would look at the brand and sympathize with her,but they would never fess up to their sins nor forgive Hester for hers. Preachers would single Hester out as an example of sin, “Clergymen paused in the street to address words of exhortation” (Hawthorne 60). As Hester took off the letter in the forest she felt free, “(s)he had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom” (Hawthorne 140). Her beauty was revived, as was her passion, and the sun shone brightly upon her. Even though Hester felt an immense liberty, Pearl did not allow her to keep the “A” off.Pearl is quite possibly the most important symbol in The Scarlet Letter. She is the scarlet letter come to life. Pearl is sent to punish Hester just like the badge of shame given by the magistrates. Pearl is the product of Hester’s sin and embodies the shame of her adultery. The meaning of Pearl’s name is a significant representation of what she is, “as being of great price-purchased with all she had-her mother’s only treasure” (Hawthorne 62). Hester gave up everything to have Pearl, most importantly her respect in the community. Pearl places disgrace upon her mother by violating moral codes set by the Puritans, including “(skipping) irreverently from one grave to another” and “(throwing) one of the prickly burrs at the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale” (Hawthorne 93-94). When Hester threw aside the scarlet letter, Pearl would not come to her. This is because essentially when tossing the badge of shame away she is throwing Pearl away. When Hester figures out that the reason Pearl will not come to her is because she is not wearing the “A,” she says, “Bring it hither!” and Pearl replies, “Come thou and take it up!” (Hawthorne 146). Pearl will not bring the letter to Hester, because she is teaching Hester and Dimmesdale that passions overrun them without thinking of the consequences, but more importantly she is making them take responsibility for their actions. Pearl’s mission given by Providence is to make her father announce his guilt, until doing this she cannot know herself. When Dimmesdale stood upon the scaffold, revealed his sin, and died, “Pearl’s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled” (Hawthorne 176). On that day “a spell was broken” and Pearl “developed all her sympathies” (Hawthorne 176). Finally, Pearl’s role as the scarlet letter come to life was complete and she could go on to live a normal life with her mother. Pearl accomplished her God-given mission and helped to bring peace to her mother and her father.Without symbolism in the novel, the images presented would not be as potent. Every aspect in a figurative piece of literature is important, from the seemingly smallest thing, such as the prison door tomain characters, like Pearl. Hawthorne wrote his great, psychological novel, The Scarlet Letter, not only in the literal sense, but also symbolically to thoroughly instill his strong ideas into the minds of readers.

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