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 aspect of humanity.

Pearl is a representation of the dark and wild nature of sin. This is shown in her many descriptions, where she is referred to as an elf-child, nymph, and sprite. She is continually referred to as an otherworldly creature, giving the ...view middle of the document...

She also serves as a constant reminder of the scarlet letter, and often draws attention to it. As an infant, Pearl would often seem impossibly aware of the letter. As she grew older, she threw burrs at it, conducted an inquiry about why Hester wore it, and refused to acknowledge Hester when Hester threw it off in the woods. Finally, Pearl is described as a red rose by Governor Bellingham, which is explicitly stated as a symbol of hope. She retains some childhood innocence and is able to touch sunlight, and is the only character to have a happy ending, living a comfortable and content life in England at the close of the novel.

The three scaffold scenes are large symbols used to highlight the three key passages to the story. In the opening scene of the novel, young Hester Prynne stands proudly as the ignominious scarlet letter is attached to her bosom. She becomes the manifestation of revealed sin, as the entire town views the products of her adulterous actions and judges her. By refusing to declare the father, she also sets him down a path of revealed sin, which his cowardly intimations during church services do nothing to reveal.The second scaffold scene contrasts with the first, the blinding sunlight and exposed secrets now being shrouded in darkness and mystery as Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale finally acknowledge that they are family, but Dimmesdale further asserts that his sin will be concealed. “‘Wilt thou promise’, asked Pearl, ‘to take my hand and mother’s hand, to-morrow noontide’?” to which Dimmesdale replies “ ‘Not then, but another time...at the great judgement day...but the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting.” (Pg. 139) The third and final scaffold scene is the climax of the novel. Dimmesdale ascends the stairs and reveals his sin to the town as the sun reaches its zenith. As he stands with Hester and...

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