The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, delivers a powerful novel invoked with symbolism. Centered on Hester, a woman branded with a scarlet “A” as a mark for adultery, much of the Scarlet Letter’s symbolism grows from the cruel, and shameful letter. The “A” symbolizes the “walking emblem of shame.”. Throughout the novel, the brand of disgust evolves around the characters influenced by Hester, including her illegitimate child Pearl. Even Pearl is subject to the shame her mother has bore, and is also shunned from the strict Puritan society. The close of the novel reveals that the symbol has given Hester strength to redeem her sin, rather then brake her spirits. The adulterous mark is almost replaced by the community as “able” due to Hester’s deeds to the community. Scarlet Letter also uses nature's flowers as a way to symbolize growth in the novel. The opening chapter describes a rosebush growing by the prison. It shows how even a beautiful flower like the rose can be judged as sacrificial, with its petals near the jail. This relates to Hester, as her beautiful character is judged by sin, not by actions. Later in the novel, Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, expresses to let the black flower blossom as it may. This reoccurrence of the flower shows how Chillingworth accepts his tortuous soul. The flower's bloom is a direct symbol for the growth of character in Scarlet Letter. Clothing is a final source Hawthorne uses to symbolize. In chapter 7, Pearl is dressed in a red gown, with gold trim. The dress of Pearl is almost identical to the brand Hester must endure, with her scarlet brand. Chillington is dressed in black, which gives an insight into his sinister character, as revealed in chapter 14. Also, the use of bright color, like red, and gold expresses how different Hester and Pearl are viewed by the Puritan society, which mainly dresses in plain, emotionless colors. The brand of sin is reflected in all the aspects of Hester’s life, which show how clothing in Scarlet Letter drastically reflects.

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