Symbolism In Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s enduring novel The Scarlet Letter remains a hallmark of American literature due to its clever incorporation of symbols and motifs. The Scarlet Letter’s theoretically mundane soap-opera plot gains a layer of depth and nuance when viewed through an analytical lens, thanks in large part to its revolutionary use of symbolism. Hawthorne ingeniously toys with the nature of symbolism itself — challenging the norms of what a “symbol” actually is. The idea of sin, for example, evolves in its significance alongside the actual characters of the novel. Hawthorne demonstrates the effects of sin on the lives and reputations of Hester, Dimmesdale, Pearl, and Chillingworth. Although many might argue, especially given the Puritan setting of the novel, that public confrontation of sin tarnishes a person’s reputation, Hawthorne’s recurring motif of sin serves to make a broader point about the dangers of repressing sin. The Scarlet Letter suggests that the acknowledgement of sin as an innate aspect of humanity ultimately fosters personal growth. Mentions of sin recur frequently throughout Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. For instance, Hawthorne describes Hester’s holding Pearl as “taint[ed] of deepest sin” (Hawthorne 85). Furthermore, he describes the affair between Hester and Dimmesdale as a “a sin of passion, not of principle, nor even purpose” (300). Continuing his allusions to sin, Hawthorne describes Pearl as “a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished”
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