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Hester Prynne, the main character in the book The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a woman living in a Puritan society who has an illegitimate child. The story begins with her punishment for adultery. Hester is jailed and then forced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her clothing forever as a mark of her shame. The story continues to tell about her life in Puritan society trying to raise her daughter Pearl. Hawthorne was a member of the Transcendentalist movement that believed that divinity manifests itself in everyday life, especially in nature. The author uses these transcendental principals to add religious and symbolic meanings to many objects and places in the book. The most important symbol in the book is introduced in the first chapter. The scarlet letter 'A' that Hester was forced to wear came to mean many things throughout the book. The letter was meant to stand for adultery, and at the beginning of the story it exists as a physical reminder of the sin that she committed. Ultimately I think the scarlet 'A' ends up showing strength and character on the part of Hester. When a group of Native Americans visit the colony they think they letter is a sign of importance. The town elders at one point discuss letting her take off the letter but she feels differently thinking it is just punishment for her transgression. It is only after she and Dimmesdale decide to leave together that she feels released from her sin and can take it off. The character of Pearl is a complex one. She exists in the story as a living reminder of the sin that Hester committed and at the same time Pearl is also Hester's salvation. When Hester becomes completely ostracized from society Pearl is all that she has. Pearl is not only a reason for Hester to live but also the reason she stays away from bad influences. When Hester is invited to a witches gathering by Mistress Hibbins she refuses but says if she didn't have Pearl she would have probably agreed to. One of the more obvious instances of symbolism in the book is when the 'A' is imprinted in the sky by a falling meteor. Dimmesdale believes the meteor means that he should also wear the scarlet 'A'. The townspeople interpret it differently thinking the meteor stands for "Angel" to mark Governor Winthrop's entry into heaven. Throughout the book the author makes distinctions between things that happen in the night and during the day and puts certain people in the light and others in the darkness. When they go outside into the forest, Pearl is always illuminated by the sun whereas Hester is always masked in darkness. This isn't because Hester is an evil person but I believe the author is trying to say she is incomplete without Dimmesdale and only together can they be in the light. This is contrary to Chillingsworth who is evil and will always be in the darkness. The symbolism Hawthorne uses adds another level of complexity to the novel. By revealing the symbolism I can see how the transcendental ideas of manifestations of good and evil and purity and sin played a part in Hawthorne's very deliberate choice of objects and colors with certain meanings.
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Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter
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Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

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              Hester Prynne, the main character in the book The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a woman living in a Puritan society who has an illegitimate child. The story begins with her punishment for adultery. Hester is jailed and then forced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her clothing forever as a mark of her shame. The story continues to tell about her life in Puritan society trying to raise her daughter Pearl. Hawthorne was a member of the Transcendentalist movement that believed that divinity manifests itself in everyday life, especially in nature. The author uses these transcendental principals to add religious and symbolic meanings to many objects and places in the book.
             
              The most important symbol in the book is introduced in the first chapter. The scarlet letter 'A' that Hester was forced to wear came to mean many things throughout the book. The letter was meant to stand for adultery, and at the beginning of the story it exists as a physical reminder of the sin that she committed. Ultimately I think the scarlet 'A' ends up showing strength and character on the part of Hester. When a group of Native Americans visit the colony they think they letter is a sign of importance. The town elders at one point discuss letting her take off the letter but she feels differently thinking it is just punishment for her transgression. It is only after she and Dimmesdale decide to leave together that she feels released from her sin and can take it off.
             
              The character of Pearl is a complex one. She exists in the story as a living reminder of the sin that Hester committed and at the same time Pearl is also Hester's salvation. When Hester becomes completely ostracized from society Pearl is all that she has. Pearl is not only a reason for Hester to live but also the reason she stays away from bad influences. When Hester is invited to a witches gathering by Mistress Hibbins she refuses but says if she didn't have Pearl she would have probably agreed to.
             
              One of the more obvious instances of symbolism in the book is when the 'A' is imprinted in the sky by a falling meteor. Dimmesdale believes the meteor means that he should also wear the scarlet 'A'. The townspeople interpret it differently thinking the meteor stands for "Angel" to mark Governor Winthrop's entry into heaven.
             
              Throughout the book the author makes distinctions between things that happen in the night and during the day and puts certain people in the light and others in the darkness. When they go outside into the forest, Pearl is always illuminated by the sun whereas Hester is always masked in darkness. This isn't because Hester is an evil person but I believe the author is trying to say she is incomplete without Dimmesdale and only together can they be in the light. This is contrary to Chillingsworth who is evil and will always be in the darkness.
             
              The symbolism Hawthorne uses adds another level of complexity to the novel. By revealing the symbolism I can see how the transcendental ideas of manifestations of good and evil and purity and sin played a part in Hawthorne's very deliberate choice of objects and colors with certain meanings.
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