Scarlet Letter Symbolism Essay

1060 words - 5 pages

Symbolism, a popular element in literature, is used in various books (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Mirror of Erised), films (Star Wars: lightsaber colors), and poems (The Red Wheelbarrow: the red wheelbarrow). Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the component of symbolism in his book, “The Scarlet Letter”, using both people and things throughout the novel. His first, and, admittedly the most obvious symbol, is the Scarlet Letter. Shortly after, we are introduced to the symbolism one of the main characters, Pearl Prynne, holds and the dense connection she has with the scarlet letter. The final piece of symbolism, that is, again, connected to the scarlet letter as well as Pearl, is the ...view middle of the document...

By the end of the book, the letter has accomplished the goal of severely punishing Hester Prynne to the point of psychological and social disorder. But, while several people are willing to let Hester take the “A” off, she realizes that the letter no longer holds any meaning as a physical object. It burned an unpatchable hole through Hester’s life for everyone to see and, whether the letter is there on her breast or not, the punishment is permanent as no one will ever see her as anything more than “the woman with the scarlet letter.” This is important to the idea--and the whole purpose of the punishment--that sin makes a permanent mark on the soul.
Hester Prynne’s daughter, Pearl Prynne, is an important symbol on her own. But when she is connected to the Scarlet Letter, her original symbolism is heightened and a whole new type of symbolism is brought on. Alone, she is the living, breathing embodiment of the product of sin and, therefore, the devil. This is shown early on in the book when Hester describes how she “...she laughed and began to dance up and down, with the humorsome gesticulation of a little imp, whose next freak might be to fly up the chimney.” This particular statement and several other causal descriptions of little Pearl portray her as a demonic or possessed creature. This idea is not helped by her lack of religious education, a big issue in the eyes of a Puritan community. She is asked to answer the question of who made her, to which the correct answer would’ve been God. But Pearl goes on to say that she was “...plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door.” The reverend sees this as just another sign that Pearl is an elf, or demon, and that Hester is not fit to raise her. When paired with the scarlet letter, it is pretty easy to see that she also symbolizes the product of sin. Both her and the scarlet letter, not only look the same in their flourished red and gold attire, but also represent the same sort of consequences...

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