Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter

Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, delivers a powerful novel invoked
with symbolism. Centered on Hester, a woman branded with a scarlet “A” as a
mark for adultery, much of the Scarlet Letter’s symbolism grows from the
cruel, and shameful letter. The “A” symbolizes the “walking emblem of
shame.” (Hawthorne 6). Throughout the novel, the brand of disgust evolves
around the characters influenced by Hester, including her illegitimate child
Pearl. Even Pearl is subject to the shame her mother has bore, and is also
shunned from the strict Puritan society. The close of the novel reveals that the
symbol has given Hester strength to redeem her sin, rather then brake her
spirits. The adulterous mark is almost replaced by the community as “able”
due to Hester’s deeds to the community. Scarlet Letter also uses nature's
flowers as a way to symbolize growth in the novel. The opening chapter describes
a rosebush growing by the prison. It shows how even a beautiful flower like the
rose can be judged as sacrificial, with its petals near the jail. This relates
to Hester, as her beautiful character is judged by sin, not by actions. Later in
the novel, Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, expresses to let the "black
flower blossom as it may." (Hawthorne 14). This reoccurrence of the flower
shows how Chillingworth accepts his tortuous soul. The flower's bloom is a
direct symbol for the growth of character in Scarlet Letter. Clothing is a final
source Hawthorne uses to symbolize. In chapter 7, Pearl is dressed in a red
gown, with gold trim. The dress of Pearl is almost identical to the brand Hester
must endure, with her scarlet brand. Chillington is dressed in black, which
gives an insight into his sinister character, as revealed in chapter 14. Also,
the use of bright color, like red, and gold expresses how different Hester and
Pearl are viewed by the Puritan society, which mainly dresses in plain,
emotionless colors. The brand of sin is reflected in all the aspects of
Hester’s life, which show how clothing in Scarlet Letter drastically reflects
situation, and character. Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter gives a tremendous
impression on the reader, filled with oppression, and historical opinion of the
Puritans. Unfortunately, as the novel appears to mirror reality, situations in
the storyline leave the reader skeptical about the actual ability to perform
these actions. Hester’s sudden removal of the scarlet brand bestowed upon her
seems very unrealistic, considering it took seven years to remove it so quickly,
and carefree. It almost makes the symbol of the scarlet letter obsolete at the
end of the chapter 18, leaving insinuation that the letter did not have as much
influence as formerly expressed. The Scarlet Letter also confuses the reader
during chapters after 20. The final pages of the novel give a completely
different perspective. Generally focused on the main characters, during chapter
21, and 22, the market gives a more broad insight into the community. While it
makes for interesting reading, the sudden change of perspective leaves the
reader strayed from the main characters, like Hester, and Pearl. The Scarlet
Letter is a very intriguing novel, for anyone looking to find a tale of Puritan
life, and the harsh reality of the times. Overall, the Scarlet Letter delivers
an exciting, and interesting view for all readers.

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