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Nathaniel Hawthorne s use of symbolism in The Scarlet Letter is outstanding, and a study of his symbols is necessary to understand the book. There are many types of symbols in the novel such as characters, the scarlet A, and light and color. Hester, Dimmesdale, Pearl and Chillingworth are the most obvious of characters who all undergo a drastic transformation throughout the novel, and along with that comes a great deal of symbolism. The scarlet A being the most obvious of symbols besides the characters is a sign of adultery, penance, and penitence. Light and darkness, sunshine and shadows, noon and midnight are all symbols of the same images, thus meaning that colors like red, gray, and black play a role in the symbolic nature of the novels setting. Over time Hester s symbolic meaning changes from a women who had a twisted life to a person who was sensitive and had a respect for the humanity of others.
People in the town began to see her A with the meaning Able and Angel. Dimmesdale is a symbol of hypocrisy and self-centered intellectualism, in his heart he knows what is right and that he should admit to his sin but he lacks the courage to go through with the public act. Also, shown is a symbol of the good sinner fighting the good fight in his soul and wins after writing his sermon and decides to confess. Pearl is the scarlet letter in the flesh and actually more symbol than reality.
To Dimmesdale she is the freedom of a broken law; Hester sees her as the living hieroglyphic of their sin, and the community sees her as the result of devil s work. The scarlet A is an immense A in the sky, a green A of eelgrass arranged by Pearl, the A on Hester s dress decorated by Pearl with prickly burrs, an A on Dimmesdale s chest seen by some spectators at the Election Day procession, and, finally, represented by the epitaph On a field, sable, the letter A gules on the tombstone Hester and Dimmesdale share. Light and darkness are used in Chapter 16 when Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest with a gray expanse of cloud and a narrow path hemmed in by the black and dense forest. Hester and Dimmesdale s feelings are held down by the darkness of nature. Pearl reminds her mother that the sun does not shine on the sinful, however it does shine when Hester lets down her hair. The sun seems to be a symbol of happiness or perhaps the approval of God and nature.
The prolific symbolist Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism very boldly and passionately throughout the Scarlet Letter. From the very first opening scene where the gentle Hester is represented as a beautiful rose and the harsh puritan society represented by a patch of wild grass surrounding her Hawthorne s use of symbols is magnificent. In the closing scene Hawthorne brings Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl together one more time at the scaffold for their third and final meeting for the climax of the novel and everything becomes clear and the scaffolds meaning shown when Dimmesdale confesses to his sin, the light shines through and Pearl is set free. One could study the outstanding use of symbols in this book for quite sometime and still find more meaning in this passionate love story novel.
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Research essay sample on Hester And Dimmesdale Light And Darkness