Hawthorne wrote his classic novel, The Scarlet Letter in a literal sense and
symbolically. Hawthorne wanted to instill his strong ideas into the minds of
readers. Symbolism helps the reader to
think about the meaning. The reader can try to find out what the author wants to
convey through different figures of speech. Makes the story comes alive more if
the book has a lot of symbolism. Hawthorne used symbols to convey deep
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many
examples of symbolism throughout the novel. Some examples of these are pearls
crimson tunic, the sunlight, and the scarlet letter itself.
The characters are the most obvious
use of symbolism in the book. Whom can have various meanings. The community
uses the letter on Hester’s bosom initially as a mark of j punishment and to
intimidate others from committing sins. Hester is a disgraced woman with a
symbol to remind her of her act of adultery. A symbol of guilt.
Hester’s scarlet letter is the
strongest symbol. , The scarlet letter has notable meanings like adultery, sin,
hard work, skill, charity, righteousness, sacredness, and, of course, grace. At
some point, they say that the “A” stands for “Able, it is like
saying, Hester is such an able woman. It is a symbol of shame that everyone
recognizes. Hester’s daughter Pearl also can be characterized by the color red.
She is a unique but intelligent child who serves as a reminder to both Hester
and Dimmesdale of the sin they have committed.
Pearl’s clothes represent her as an extension,
of Hester’s passions both in beauty and deed. Hester draws hatred from the
community by dressing Pearl in gold and red, which represents Hester’s own
“shame. Even when Hester visits the Governor to beg for pearl to stay with, she
dresses her up in a velvet, crimson, tunic. Pearl’s clothes play on Hester`s
imagination and mostly passion that give Hester her color while the rest of the
village seems to be in black and white. Pearl`s dress also serves as an act of
This pushes the idea that Pearl is
the living embodiment Scarlet Letter which is mentioned later by Dimmesdale
during his appeal to the governor. He
mentions in chapter eight, that Pearl is “a being capable of eternal joy
or sorrow…to remind her, at every moment, of her fall”. Hawthorne uses pearls dress as a connection to
the scarlet letter.
sunshine in the novel to symbolize purity and hope. In one important scene,
Pearl asks Hester to grab some sunshine and give it to her to play with.
Hawthorne uses sunlight to represent joy and truth.
Nature is used to show Hester’s lack
of joy, lack of acknowledging the truth, and the difference between inner
thoughts and the outside world. The sunlight seems to be avoiding Hester on
purpose as she and Pearl walk through the forest. As it often does, light
symbolizes truth, then this strange natural phenomenon appears to be suggesting
that Hester will not find, or avoiding the “truth” that she wants to convey to
The sunshine is associated with
truth, as light is. During the walk in the forest taken by Hester and Pearl.
Pearl runs ahead of Hester and plays in the sunshine, but when Hester attempts
to get into the sunshine but it disappears:
“The light lingered
around the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate, until her mother had
drawn almost nigh enough to step into the magic circle too… As she attempted
to stretch out her hand, the sunshine vanished; or, to judge from the bright
expression that was dancing on Pearl’s features, her mother could have fancied
that the child had absorbed it into herself, and would give it forth again,
with a gleam about her path, as they should plunge into some gloomier shade.
There are many reasons why the
Scarlet Letter is a classic. Whether it is the way he writes the story in
detail. Or if the psychological way he talks about sin. Or if you are a romantic
and the story of Hester and Dimmesdale affair intrigues you, Nathaniel
Hawthorne uses imagery and symbolism to its full potential.