Symbolism In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gripping psychological romance, The Scarlet Letter, follows the life of adulteress Hester Prynne and the struggles she faces while living in the restrictive culture of 17th-century Puritan America. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne paints a reproachful and critical image of a repressive Puritan community that unjustly torments the protagonist Hester. He effectively portrays the deleterious influences of the religious doctrine by incorporating a number of literary devices including symbols, themes, and motifs. Perhaps the most notable aspect of The Scarlet Letter is Hawthorne’s use of symbolism to underline the Puritans’ lack of compassion, specifically the scarlet letter ‘A’ Hester is forced to wear as a relentless reminder…show more content…
By displaying great humility and generosity towards the poor, the diseased and the afflicted, Hester is able to redeem herself, thereby resulting in the letter signifying the word “Able,” rather than the word “Adultery” (149). When the council proposes to remove the scarlet emblem from her breast, Hester refuses the offer hence manifesting her profound resilience, adamant convictions, and her strong desire to prevent others from dictating her life. Hawthorne employs this stark contrast between Hester’s individuality and society’s conformity to both harshly criticize the rigid boundaries set by Puritans and commend the empowering strength of an individual to transcend those…show more content…
Some witnesses, perhaps in an attempt to “uphold his character,” assert that the minister, conscious “that the reverence of the multitude placed him already among saints and angels,” desired to deliver his final sermon “that, in the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike” (241). Hawthorne scorns this hypocritical nature of Puritans whose “stubborn fidelity” and desire to preserve the reputation of the church prevent them from realizing that Dimmesdale was “a false and sin-stained creature of the dust” (241). Throughout the course of the story, the author continually satirizes the Puritans’ irrational spiritual pride and arrogance; he conveys the impression that most of the town’s inhabitants are harboring sins and are merely refusing to disclose their crimes for the sake of protecting their utopian ideal. This theme of hypocrisy and self-contradiction is central to the development of the novel’s plot and lucidly demonstrates the crucial flaws of the Puritan
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