Herbert Gorman's essay entitled "The Absolved, the Redeemed, and the Damned: A Triangle", in response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, discusses Hawthorne's unique writing style and the effectiveness of this work. According to Gorman, "the book is a moving series of symbols within a large symbol from beginning to end" (251). Hawthorne writes in an allegorical style, meaning he uses characters, objects, or events to represent abstract ideas and relay moral values to the reader. Especially in The Scarlet Letter, symbols "dominate the book" (Gorman 251). Although many critics and authors alike feel that Hawthorne has gone overboard in his use of symbols, I believe that his use of symbolism further enhances the story for the reader, as well as makes his lessons timeless.
Unlike most authors, Hawthorne allows his symbols to take over his story rather than building up the text with lengthy descriptions of characters and useless background information.
Little time is wasted addressing Hester, Dimmesdale, or Chillingworth before the infamous affair, as this would be irrelevant to Hawthorne's cause. Instead of focusing on what causes sin, he wrote this novel exploring what sin causes. At some point, the characters actually become symbols themselves. Pearl represents both the innocence of childhood and the lasting effects of sin to the entire community; Dimmesdale stands for ambiguity; and Hester symbolizes forbidden passion and the struggle of the individual vs. society.
The biggest asset of the use of symbolism in any story is its universal interpretation. It is "the only means by which it is possible to achieve any unity between the knowledge of the fact and the feeling about the fact" (Carey 342). The events in The Scarlet Letter took place in Puritan, New England over 300 years ago, but the reader is able to relate the emotions...