Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter has been read by many and interpreted in many ways. Hawthorne is one of the most known symbolists in American Literature and a study of his symbols is necessary to understand his novels. According to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary a symbol is “a letter, group of letters, character or picture that is used instead of a word or group of words.” Hawthorne uses a great amount of symbols to deal with the sanctities of human heart, the consequence of tragic sin and the impossibility of running away from the consequence of sin. In literature an allegory is a story where characters, objects, and events have a hidden meaning and are used to present some universal lesson. Hawthorne has a perfect atmosphere for the symbols in The Scarlet Letter because the Puritans saw the world through allegory. For them, simple patterns, like the meteor streaking through the sky, became religious or moral interpretations for human events. The most obvious and well known symbol is the scarlet letter “A”, which has various meanings depending on different people and context. The “A” is meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester (Carrez). The letter’s meaning shifts as time passes. “Such helpfulness was found in her… so much power to do, and power to sympathize… that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength” (Hawthorne 141). Originally, it was intended to mark Hester as an adulterer, the "A" eventually comes to stand for "Able". Furthermore, for the Native Americans who come to watch the Election Day Pageant believes it marks her as a person of importance and status (Hawthorne 161). Hester Prynne is a powerful capable woman; she
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