Symbols Setting the Scene in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by jagsacHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2006

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One might say that symbols are the most important things in a story, and that they unlock the secrets of a novel. Hawthorne, in The Scarlet Letter, uses many symbols to represent different things. Some symbols represent the same thing. The letter "A" has many meanings, each character has their own meanings, and even the different parts of nature are symbols. Also, apart from providing structure for the novel, each scaffold scene conveys something different. One could say, arguably, that nearly everything in The Scarlet Letter is a symbol of something else.

In the novel, there are four different versions of the letter "A". The first is presented at the beginning of the book, where Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" upon her breast. The second occurrence is during the second scaffold scene, when the pastor Arthur Dimmesdale is on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl, and a meteor causes a letter "A" to appear in the sky.

The third version of the letter "A" appears when Pearl makes the letter "A" out of seaweed and puts it on her own breast. The fourth and final letter "A" is shown at the end of the book, on Dimmesdale's breast when he confesses. The letter "A", in all its forms, represents many things in the novel. At the beginning, the letter is supposed to represent Hester's guilt or shame for committing adultery, though Hester wears it proudly. Later on in the book, however, it represents something completely different. That same letter "A" on her breast represents her able or angelic nature, instead of her sin in the past. The second letter "A", seen in the sky, represents not only Dimmesdale's cowardice and shame, but the fact that the townspeople make up meanings for

occurrences to mean what...