Letters, Leeches, And Little Girls: Symbolism Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter

1637 words - 7 pages

Some say to sin is to go to hell, some say sin is a scourge of human nature, some say sin must be confessed, and some say sin must be forced out of people through punishment. The internal consequences of believing one has sinned are more intangible than social attitudes toward sin, but they appear just as often and in just as many different ways. The novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, exudes sin. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses symbolism to demonstrate the effects of sin not only on public reputation, but also on one’s psychological state. The Scarlet Letter A, which Hester Prynne wears on her chest as punishment for adultery, causes her anguish through ignominy but allows her to improve over time through the public nature of her disgrace. Chillingworth, the leech, punishes Reverend Dimmesdale for his concealed sin, and yet at the same time wastes away due to his own sin of sucking the life out of Dimmesdale. Pearl, the illegitimate child of Hester and Dimmesdale, embodies both the open and the concealed sin of her parents. She is unable to be normal because of this and takes on wild and elf-like qualities.
The scarlet letter A marks sin and inflicts punishment for it. It primarily represents open sin and it consequences, such as public shame, as it is worn upon Hester’s breast to punish her for adultery. The ignominy of the letter devastates Hester. “If she survive, the tenderness will either be crushed out of her, or . . . crushed so deeply into her heart that it can never show itself more” (Chapter 13 p. 148). She is tormented by the anguish of her humiliation. Through this she loses much of her tenderness and passion and reverts to be being cold and numb. The pain of her sin numbs her to her own pain. Yet the scarlet letter also comes to represent Hester’s strength and understanding, as well as a new appreciation in the eyes of her townspeople: “. . . that many people refused to interpret the scarlet ‘A’ by its original signification. They said it meant Able; so strong was Hester, with a woman’s strength” (Chapter 13, p. 146) As Hester improves her life, she becomes more humble, kind, and warm, and less haughty, because she starts to help others, especially people who are poor. The townspeople can’t see the A stand for adulterer when she is so strong and kind to others, so they say it means Able. The open nature of the scarlet letter on Hester allows her to move on while a secret letter secretly imprinted on Dimmesdale binds him to his sin: “Happy are you, Hester that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret” (Chapter 17 p. 173) Dimmesdale talks to Hester about how lucky she is to have her sin upon her chest for everyone in the public to see, rather than concealed like his. She suffers less agony because her sin is known and she doesn’t have to lie and feel like she is false. She also moves on and becomes more numb to the pain of her sin. Dimmesdale suffers the misery of being a fraud, and...

Find Another Essay On Letters, Leeches, and Little Girls: Symbolism of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

Sin and the Scarlet Letter Essay

894 words - 4 pages Sin-noun-an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law. On occasion, sin can distort and mutilate the social norms of an entire society. In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne sin bypassed the strictly religious puritan way of life with three characters: Reverend Dimmesdale, Pearl Prynne, and Roger Chillingworth. Dimmesdale represents hidden sin that continued to manifest as the story developed. Pearl represents the

Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Essay

1832 words - 8 pages . They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne” (146). This shows the letter’s transition into wisdom and goodness. Hester begins to accomplish good things in the town and help as much as possible. When discussing how Hester helps the sick and is kind to the poor, Hawthorne says that the citizens “had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token, not of that one sin, for which she had borne so long and dreary a penance, but of

Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

2319 words - 9 pages Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter "The common definition says that a symbol is a sign or token of something… We take symbols like these pretty much for granted. They are a part of everyday experience. In literature, matters are a little more complicated. Literary symbols usually don’t have instantly recognizable meanings. Rather they take their meanings from the work of which they are part" ("The Scarlet Letter" 8). An example of

Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

726 words - 3 pages her say." (Blooms 180) Pearl’s presence gives her mother reason to live, With her crazy spirits when she is tempted to give up. Throughout The scarlet Letter, the “Black Man” is recognized with Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Mistress Hibbins, and little Pearl is seen as the Devil’s child. "Hester's association of him and 'The Black Man' and his own promise of vengeance are all the sort of hints that produce certainty in the reader's mind

Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

1270 words - 5 pages governor. So one topic of gossip and conversation, Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s adultery, has evolved into another more recent one, the governor’s death. Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter enables the reader to understand complex ideas more clearly. Beginning with the title of the book itself, Nathaniel Hawthorne weaves various symbols throughout the novel. The same symbol can mean different things to different people because symbols are subject to the

Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

916 words - 4 pages ' on his chest. The townspeople believe it means angel in honor of Governor Winthrop who had died. The differing interpretations reflect the belief that personal experience filters symbolic meaning for each individual.Conclusion: Symbolism is the main writing skill which is used in the Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne used a lot of symbols to reflect the life of Puritans and his rebel to Puritanism. In this article, the author studied two main symbols and four inconspicuous symbols in the Scarlet Letter in different angles. Symbolism makes his novel more attractive and makes Hawthorne's thoughts more profound.

Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

916 words - 4 pages ' on his chest. The townspeople believe it means angel in honor of Governor Winthrop who had died. The differing interpretations reflect the belief that personal experience filters symbolic meaning for each individual.Conclusion: Symbolism is the main writing skill which is used in the Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne used a lot of symbols to reflect the life of Puritans and his rebel to Puritanism. In this article, the author studied two main symbols and four inconspicuous symbols in the Scarlet Letter in different angles. Symbolism makes his novel more attractive and makes Hawthorne's thoughts more profound.

Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

1206 words - 5 pages In the novel "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne symbolism is used to represent the evolution of the characters primarily that of Hester Prynne. Two of these symbols as they are used repeatedly create underlying truths telling their own story of growth and understanding as sunshine and the letter "A" bring to light who Hester Prynne truly is. The first and perhaps the most obvious use of symbolism in the novel follows the progression

Symbolism in the scarlet letter

567 words - 3 pages Symbolism In The Scarlet LetterPicture this, you just finish a book and you think to your self, what did it mean? Well, if you are lucky they book symbolized something. Without symbols, writing is just an organized mass of meaningless words. Symbolism in writing is the deepness and hidden meaning in a piece of work. The novel "The Scarlet Letter" written by Nathaniel Hawthorne has many symbols entwined into it, making it very captivating story

Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter - 564 words

564 words - 2 pages , underlying meaning. Although there are many symbols in this book, there are three that really help support the main idea: Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter, the meteor, and Hester’s daughter Pearl. One symbol is Hester’s scarlet “A” that she wears on her bosom. She received this letter, specifically and “A”, because she had committed adultery in the Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts. Hester had moved to Salem before her husband, who was supposed

Symbolism in "The Scarlet Letter"

1051 words - 4 pages himself, Chillinworth too vanished soon after. From the intellectual noble man, Roger Chillingworth became the worst sinner and a pawn of the devil when he let obsession, vengeance, jealousy and hatred overpower his morals and intelligence. Chillingworth’s symbolism of evil and sin was strong, powerful and successful as he represented the self-destructive power of vengeance that people let in their lives, as well as the innate evil that results from jealousy and hatred, which can turn the purest man into the worst of sinners.

Similar Essays

The Bitten Apple: Symbolism And The Nature Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter

1014 words - 5 pages Since the apple was first bitten in the beginning of time, sin has played an important role in shaping humanity. The reactions of the sinners often play a large role in the effects of the crime. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter captures the nature of sin and the message that revealed sin is rewarded while concealed sin is punished, using young Pearl, the scaffold, and the scarlet A itself as three clear symbols to explore this dark

Resolution Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter

542 words - 2 pages Hester Prynne is a young, beautiful woman who was sent to Boston by her husband who planned to join her but was persumed lost at sea. She looked to Arthur Dimmesdale for comfort and spiritual guidance. Their solace became passion and resulted in the sin of adultery and the birth of their daughter, Pearl. This sin had a huge impact on them and changed their lives forever. It is what the book The Scarlet Letter is all about and how different the

Analysis Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter

1683 words - 7 pages is vast; Hawthorne critically explores the strict, inflexible Puritanical approach to sin and its implication for individuals and society. Hawthorne investigates the intent behind sin in The Scarlet Letter using Dimmesdale and Chillingworth in order to criticize the Puritan Code and to demonstrate the ramifications intent can have on the sinner’s ability to earn forgiveness and gain redemption. Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s sin of adultery serves

The Concepts Of Morality And Sin In The Scarlet Letter

1250 words - 5 pages The Concepts of Morality and Sin in the Scarlet Letter Many interpret The Scarlet Letter as a story based on love and passion. In his Criticism "The Scarlet Letter as a Love Story" Ernest Sandeen writes about the "erotic passion" and "courtly love" displayed in the novel, and he calls it "Hawthorne's own version of the traditional story of passion." It is clear that the Scarlet Letter includes passion and love, but are we