"Scarlet Letter" by Nathanial Hawthorne.

Essay by mattyJRHigh School, 11th grade May 2003

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Often throughout The Scarlet Letter there are symbolic references made. The story deals with a Puritan woman who commits adultery and raises an illegal child named Pearl. The author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, seems to be rather fond of using religious and natural images to symbolize different points, possibly because of his own Puritan background. One of the purposes of this symbolism is to show that Puritanism is hypocritical and that their religious viewpoints go against natural order, which is done by using contrasting natural and religious symbols in the descriptions of the objects in the story.

The first sign of symbolism used is the scarlet letter that Hester wears. To society it is a symbol of shame, but to Hester it is sign of identity. It was intended to mark her as a criminal, but instead stands for something much different. The Native Americans that come to watch the Election Day pageant think it marks her as an important person with very high status.

Whether it is a sign of shame or a sign of identity, it is a reminder of the affair that Hester once had with Dimmesdale and the baby Pearl that was born.

Another symbol used in The Scarlet Letter was the meteor that passed when Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl were standing on the scaffold. It traces out and "A" in the sky. Dimmesdale thinks this is an implication that he should be wearing the letter. The community thinks it stands for "Angel" and the governor's entrance into heaven. The symbol in this story can be taken to mean whatever the reader wants it to.

The baby Pearl is another symbol in the story. She represents the scarlet letter that her mother wears. She is sort of a living version of the letter. She is the consequence...