The Scarlett Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter played a key role in the overall advancement of characters and events in Hawthorn's writing. Some symbols were more obvious than others however, everywhere you look within the novel there are symbols. The three that stand out the most is of course the letter "A" itself, the forest, and the scaffold.

The "A" in which Hester is forced to wear is an obvious symbol that stands for adultery however, it means much more than that. This symbol represents various things to different people. To Hester it is supposed to represent embarrassment, to Arthur it represents guilt, to Roger it represents an obsession with revenge, and to the public it represents able or angel. In the first chapter we see that Hester is not ashamed of her letter like she should be, instead she has decorated the "A" in a gold lace to make it ravishing and resplendent.

Also, as she walks throughout town she does not try to hide it rather, she keeps walking along with her shoulders pushed back and her head held high. Unlike Hester, Roger has a hidden "A" that no one can see. He keeps his buried in his heart where it constantly gnaws at his soul and both physically and emotionally tears him down to the point where he dies. His "A" actually remains hidden throughout the novel but in chapter 22-24 it becomes a focal point as you read.

The forest in The Scarlet Letter symbolizes to different things at two different times. In the daytime the forest is like a place of rest and freedom from all of the chaos within the community. Yet, on the other hand there is the night side of the forest. When it is in the evening the forest is a symbol of fear and evil. For example Hester and Pearl come to the forest in the daytime to play and have fun but when night falls all evil things are out, like the Black Man a.k.a. the devil. Pretty much all references to the Black Man in this novel involve the forest and/or night time.

The scaffold is an often overlooked symbol in The Scarlet Letter but once the novel has been fully read you can look back and see the significance of the scaffold. The scaffold itself is symbolic of the stern Puritan code by which all in that community must abide. If laws were broken and you were to be put on display, this is where you would go. This object is a very morbid symbol, nothing good seems to ever rise from it. Although it may be somewhat significant it is only seen throughout the novel three times and it always seems to appear when the novel is slowing down. With each time nonetheless, a new character is seen and a new event or revelation is revealed. The first time we see the scaffold we are introduced to Hester and Pearl, and this is also the first major time that the "A" is significant over almost everything else. The second time we see Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale. In this scene Dimmesdale's secret is brought out in the open to the reader. At first the scaffold was going to be a place of tranquillity for Dimmesdale, but it soon became his worst nightmare. The third time we see the scaffold we see Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Roger. It is here on this scene in which the biggest enigma is revealed to the public. Which is of course that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father, and it also here on this scene that Dimmesdale meets his ill fated destiny of death and Roger is vanquished.

From beginning to end Hawthorn uses symbolism to try and either express points that needed to be seen or to simply exploit a character. Without this type of symbolism The Scarlet Letter would be quite dull and not as commendable as it is. To be a truly great writer, the reader must be seduced by imagery and symbolism so that he/she is girdled in the novel. Hawthorn is a prime example of a reader that has made a prevailing assault at using such symbolism to envelope the readers and is commended for doing so.