Essay title: The Scarlet Letter: A Story Told Through Symbols
Many times symbols are used as a form of expression that permits an author to give meaning and life to certain things or objects.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is an allegory because of its great use of symbolism. Throughout the novel the author uses many symbols in its characters, objects and in nature.The first example of symbolism presented in the novel is the later“ A” on Hester Prynne’s chest, which is given to her by the town council when she is accused of adulterer, since she lives in a strict Puritan community this act is seen as a great sin. The opinions of the townspeople when she is first punished are shown in a dialogue between the women, which believe her punishment is too weak; one of the women says, “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die” (Nathaniel Hawthorne 49) But another young woman believes differently and says, "let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart” (Nathaniel Hawthorne 49). This scarlet letter represents a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester. The letter also functions as a physical reminder of Hester's affair with Dimmesdale as well as her daughter Pearl, which also reminds her constantly of her sinful affair.
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But compared with a human child, the letter seems insignificant, and thus helping to point out the ultimate meaninglessness of the community's system of judgment and punishment. The child has been sent from God, or at least from nature, but the letter is merely a human contrivance. Additionally, the instability of the letter's apparent meaning changes throughout the novel because later in the story the community starts seeing the letter as representing “Able” instead of “Adulteress” and seeing Hester as a woman that can help the townspeople.The opinion of the townspeople when she is first punished is shown in a dialogue between the women, who believe her punishment is too weak. Also in the beginning when Hester leaves the prison, there is a symbol in the rosebush; this represents her beauty because of its bright red color like the one on her chest; it is beauty in the middle of darkness. Also this rosebush is surrounded with weeds, which symbolize the society around her; they kill everything.