Symbolism In the Scarlet Letter Essay

This essay has a total of 949 words and 4 pages.

Symbolism In the Scarlet Letter

5th Hour American Lit
Symbols of Sin
By definition, a symbol is “something concrete that represents or suggests another thing
that cannot in itself be pictured.” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many people as symbols
throughout The Scarlet Letter. The characters of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl,
and Roger Chillingworth all represent sin. However, these four symbolize different
aspects of sin.

Through the character of Hester Prynne, Hawthorne shows how sin can make a person
stronger. When Hester commits adultery, the Puritan punishment forces her to wear a
scarlet letter so the whole community knows of her wrongdoing. Hester has enough courage
to wear the letter in public, even though she has to live with harassing comments and
peculiar glances from the townspeople. By dealing with these unnecessary actions, Hester
becomes a stronger person who is better able to handle pain and defend herself. Besides
the fact that she wears her “A” proudly, Hester is able to get over her sorrow and get on
with her life. She decides not to stay home everyday and suffer grief; instead, she
chooses to help others. Many people begin to respect her again because of her kindness and
assistance. As Hawthorne states, “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.” Hester truly is a symbol of strength, and because of her strength she
is able to get on with her life and not suffer with her grief.

Unlike Hester, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale does not become stronger from his sin, but
instead becomes weaker. He is a symbol of God, and because of this it is hard for him to
be open about his sins. Until his death, he can never plainly admit to his congregation
that he committed adultery. The fact that Dimmesdale conceals his sin torments him, and it
is evident all the way through the novel that his secret sin is constantly dragging him
down. He often attempts to punish himself by fasting and holding all night vigils.
However, his sin continues to bother him until his death, when the people who consider him
holy finally acknowledge his transgression. Once he reveals his sin to the community, he
stands on the scaffold “with a flush of triumph on his face, as the one who, in the crisis
of acutest pain, had won a victory.” He truly had won a victory; he no longer has to make
himself suffer. Through the character of Arthur Dimmesdale, the author reveals that
keeping sin hidden can be harmful.

Pearl is the daughter of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, and she serves as a constant
mental and physical reminder to Hester of her sin. Pearl is the reason for the scarlet
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