English AP III
September 30, 2013
Critical Analysis Essay
McPherson effectively analyzes the ambivalence of the A as a symbol in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter by contrasting his personal views of the A's meaning against the Puritan opinion of the A as an emblem of sin. By examining McPherson's idea that Hawthorne places multiple meanings in one symbol, it becomes clear that the main icons of The Scarlet Letter are subject to be interpreted in many different and even opposing ways.
To offer a clear line of vision in regards to what McPherson sees and construes from the A symbol in The Scarlet Letter, it is necessary to understand that McPherson employs an unbiased tone throughout his criticism. By refusing to cast judgment on Hester's crime of passion, he fairly discusses and explores two sides of interpretation in regards to the A; the idea that the A is a sign that represents the innate characteristics of the human race, versus the Puritanical view of the meaning in which the A is a sign of original sin.
McPherson states that the scarlet letter is Hawthorne's "emblem of the human heart," (90) a symbol of all that is a good and evil in humanity, and a constant reminder of mankind's inherent imperfections. In this line of thought, Hawthorne desires the scarlet letter to be something by which all people can identify with, and understand. McPherson points out that, when further examining Hawthorne's compassionate and admiring tone towards the A and Hester herself, the reader is led to reconsider its topical "Puritan meaning" (92) and entertain the idea of another, less harsh interpretation. McPherson again pushes the idea that one key way of interpreting the A is as a symbol that "speaks of mankind and...