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Scarlet Letter

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Summer Reading: The Scarlet Letter

In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne symbolism is prevalent, understanding symbolism is necessary for understanding Hawthorne's novels. The rosebush is a symbol in the novel. It is rendered through the characters of Hester and Pearl in how they are perceived by the people.

Hester Prynne has been convicted of being an adulteress. She is put on a scaffold as a form of public humiliation and told to wear a Scarlet A on her breast to identify herself with shame. Hester stands on the scaffold for three hours. As she stands, she looks around at the crowd of people. Inside she is shameful but to the onlookers she appears proud. The rosebush also from a distance looks majestic and alive but as one gets closer, its thorns are revealed. Hester, like the rosebush, is very pretty and majestic but as one gets closer the Scarlet A of an adulteress is revealed.

In the wild, rosebushes use their thorns to keep predators away. Hester and Pearl are like rosebushes because they try to keep people at a distance from them. As Pearl grows up she becomes a very pretty, young girl as her mother is. She is also faced with the reality that she was born out of wedlock. Pearl develops a rude, annoying personality because she has never had anyone that has wanted to be close to her because of her predestined status in the community. Before she has even grown up she is known as an inferior member of society. Her personality is her protection, just as thorns on a rosebush protect the flowers. Hester uses her Scarlet A to keep Hester from having anyone close to her. Her past has kept her from wanting anyone to try and pry into her business. She would rather people stay away from her and her family to prevent any more gossip or talk about her. However, by the novel's end, Hester has become a proto-feminist mother figure to the women of the community. The shame attached to

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