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The Scarlet Letter - Various Symbols

Uploaded by Voltaire2202 on Feb 28, 2002

This got me a 39/40 in AP English.

Nathaniel Hawthorne. The name strikes fear in the hearts of high school students everywhere because Hawthorne's 'wordy' novels, especially his 1849 The Scarlet Letter, have been at the top of English classes' required reading lists for years and will continue to be for years to come. In general, students have grown accustomed to superficial analyses of books, which encompasses reading and regurgitating 'literary facts' on multiple choice tests. However, when reading engaging, well-written, stylistic and ambiguous novels, such as The Scarlet Letter, one must go deeper and actually examine the novel and the elements that the author so effectively uses. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses a wide range of symbols, such as: aspects of nature, for example the forest, sunshine and water; things, like the scarlet letter itself and places like the scaffold.

One of the most integral parts of the book, when Hester Prynne speaks to the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale about their predicament, takes place in the forest. When reading the novel, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is a contrast between the forest and the town, as settings. The forest symbolizes a dark and mysterious place where impulses and urges reign and also where the goings-on are to be kept a secret. The forest is described as dismal, gloomy and full of shadows with an imposing, cloudy sky that is filled with threatening storms (p. 181). When Dimmesdale and Hester first see each other, Hawthorne describes them as being "in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had intimately connected in their former life, but now stood coldly shuddering, in mutual dead" (p. 181). Also in the forest, Hester undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and, taking it from her bosom, threw it to a distance among the withered leaves….[and] took off the formal cap that confined her hair (p. 192).

During the Puritan times, a woman letting her hair down would never happen in town--it would be blasphemous, only in the woods would it happen. At the holiday, Pearl asks about Dimmesdale, Hester hushes her because those are only things that happen in the forest and they are not to be spoken about in the town (p. 215). Also, Hawthorne uses the sunshine to signify warmth, love and acceptance. "'Mother,' said little Pearl, 'the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it...

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Uploaded by:   Voltaire2202

Date:   02/28/2002

Category:   The Scarlet Letter

Length:   4 pages (1,001 words)

Views:   7385

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