"The Scarlet Letter"--symbolism expressed in the story, Pearl, the scaffold and the "A".

Essay by PolyamorousOneHigh School, 11th grade March 2004

download word file, 3 pages 4.6

Symbolism Expressed Through Hawthorne

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "The Scarlet Letter," he expresses many different symbols that are very significant to the story. The most obvious one would probably be the scarlet letter itself. It represented all that Hester was to suffer for. Another one that I found very important to the story was Pearl. She is a living version of her mothers scarlet letter. These two symbols both serve as consequences to Hester. The scarlet 'A' is her mental consequence and Pearl is her physical consequence. Another symbol that helps explain the story is the reason for the scaffold. It helps show the difference between Hester and Dimmesdale's situations.

The scarlet letter's purpose is to be a symbol of shame and dishonor; instead it turns into two different meanings. Its meaning shifts as time passes through the story. It was intended to mark Hester as an adulterer but later comes to stand for "able."

The letter 'A' has a very big impact on Hester's life. She loses the womanliness and elegance she once had. Her beauty, woman qualities, and passion are, after a time, buried by the 'A' she is forced to wear. Long hair was something in that time period that was a symbol of a woman. In the beginning of the story, her hair is described as "dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam" (37). But later on, Hawthorne mentions that Hester keeps her hair out of site under a cap. Hester is portrayed as a haughty woman. "...with a burning blush, yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors." (37). Hester learns to adapt to the 'A' on her bosom. "Her breast, with its badge...