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Scarlet Letter Symbolism

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Main Symbols of The Scarlet Letter

A symbol is something that represents something else by association. They can be used for many purposes like foreshadowing imagery and other literary terms. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the rosebush, the scaffold, the scarlet letter "A", and the setting of the forest are used to describe ideas that are significant to the plot of the story. In the case of the rosebush, Hawthorne shows that even good things can blossom even if surrounded by adversity. Hawthorne uses the scaffold as a place to get sins off ones chest and into the public. He also shows that the scarlet letter is not a very big humiliation for Hester. In the case of the setting of the forest, it helps the characters escape from the bounds of laws. By showing the significance of the rosebush, the scaffold, and the setting of the forest, Hawthorne is able to communicate the plot to the reader.

Hawthorne shows the rosebush in the beginning of the story to represent Hester's life. She blossoms through out the story just as the rosebush does even though it is surrounded by many bad circumstances. The rosebush has thorns on it which show that Hester's life has many rough spots in it, like the crime she commits. The rosebush also represents death because it is next to the cemetery, and Hester is also surrounded by death with the death of Dimmsedale and Chillingsworth. Rosebushes also are very beautiful. This also relates to Hester because she is beautiful as described here, "The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam; and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes. She was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace which is now recognized as its indication. And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison."(Hawthorne 50-51) The rosebush also has rough times. It has to survive the winter, and Hester is surviving after being convicted of adultery. Hester's sin is like a rose, beautiful, but it has thorns on it so it still can hurt. Hester also has her sin of adultery put up on the scaffold for the people to see her sins out in the open.

The scaffold in the novel is a place for people to get sins off their chest and into the public. Hester is forced to do it in the very beginning of the book to be shown for her sins. Then Dimmsedale puts him self up on the scaffold to get his guilt off his hands "Mr. Dimmsedale reached the spot where, now so long since, Hester Prynne had lived through her first hours of public ignominy. The same platform or scaffold, black and weather-stained with the storm or sunshine of seven long years, and foot-worn, too, with the tread of many culprits who had since ascended it, remained standing beneath the balcony of the meeting-house. The minister went up the steps. It was an obscure night in early May. An unwearied pall of cloud muffled the whole expanse of sky from zenith to horizon. If the same multitude which had stood as eye-witnesses while Hester Prynne sustained her punishment could now have been summoned forth, they would have discerned no face above the platform nor hardly the outline of a human shape, in the dark grey of the midnight. But the town was all asleep. There was no peril of discovery." This helps Hester to get her sin out in front of the community and this helps her to be at ease with her sin. When Dimmsedale gets up on the scaffold the whole town is not watching which helps him get rid of the guilt with out the consequences of people seeing him but the next day his glove is found and the man after he finds out that it's Dimmesdale's glove he says that Satan stole it "But as he came down the pulpit steps, the grey-bearded sexton met him, holding up a black glove, which the minister recognized as his own.

"It was found," said the Sexton, "this morning on the scaffold where evil-doers are set up to public shame. Satan dropped it there; I take it, intending a scurrilous jest against your reverence. But, indeed, he was blind and foolish, as he ever and always is. A pure hand needs no glove to cover it!" But you can see him being haunted by it because he holds his heart like he is being branded. Hester lives through her sin yet Dimmsedale does not live through his. The scaffold puts the sins of the people into the public, on the other hand Hester's letter on her chest shows her sin all of the time.

The scarlet letter "A" shows that Hester is a sinner for all of the people to see. In the novel the letter represents many things. In the beginning of the novel the "A" can represents adultery or adulterer to show that Hester's had sinned. But as you get



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