Discuss Hawthorne's blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory in "The Scarlet Letter"

Essay by wonder0filledHigh School, 11th grade January 2007

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"The Scarlet Letter" is a beautifully written novel that includes many different literary elements to tie the events together and to draw the reader in. Mainly, the novel is a combination of realism, symbolism, and allegory. The realistic story takes place in colonial America, involving many possible events, in a story that could easily have taken place in that time period. Symbols are abundant in the novel, with the main symbol (the letter) being the center of the story, with many other symbols supporting it and bringing the story a deeper meaning. Allegory is also used, with virtually every character being representative of something deeper into the heart of the novel, and the story is basically being shown as an extended metaphor.

The events of the story take place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, not too long after its founding, when the self-government had only recently been started.

The Puritan beliefs were essentially used to govern the colonies, and any person who did not comply with these morals, ethics, values, and beliefs, would be punished by the fathers of the colony. Hawthorne also delves deep into the fragile psyches of his characters, allowing the reader to see their human emotions, those of sadness, happiness, and all the other more complicated emotions in between. By including these elements, Hawthorne brings a very realistic feel, and manages to convince the reader that the story is completely true.

Hawthorne uses symbolism partially as a basis for the story, but mostly uses it to add meaning to the events that occur. The letter that is constantly on Hester's bosom is precisely the symbol that causes the events in the story, and so it is obviously the most important. Originally, the letter indicates solely the sin that Hester has committed: adultery. It labels...