The Scarlet Letter - Symbols Essay

The novel is rich with symbols that help central themes and ideas. Within the Scarlet Letter, the symbols are mostly visual and therefore enhance the reader's imagination the sort of pictures that in a thickly written text like this one can be worth, well, at least a lot of words.

The Prison Door

The novel begins in this way: «A throng of bearded males, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods among others bareheaded, had been put together in front of a wood edifice, the entranceway which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron surges.» As this description shows, the jail door, like the prison it self, symbolizes punishment. The «iron spikes» reinforce the cruel harshness of Puritan punishment. The prison is the reader's introduction to Puritan society and combines aided by the «sad-colored garments» to mention a sense of a dour, judgmental community.

The Rose Bush

The rose bush, also introduced in Chapter 1, primarily symbolizes Hester. It shows her beauty and wildness, also her capacity to endure in even in the harshest circumstances. We come across this inside description associated with flower bush: «But using one side regarding the portal, and rooted nearly at threshold, had been a wild rose-bush, covered, in this thirty days of June, with its delicate gems.… This rose-bush, by a strange chance, is kept alive in history.» Furthermore, the rose bush symbolizes Hawthorne's hope that the audience will see their book pleasing: «we could hardly do otherwise than pluck among its plants, and present it toward reader. It could serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet ethical blossom, which may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of an account of individual frailty and sorrow.» Later, in episode on governor's house, the rose bush is related to Pearl, linking the woman to its vibrant liveliness.

The Scarlet Letter

At first the page shows the entire world that Hester committed adultery, so it really is a mark of the woman sin and disgrace. By the finish of the guide, however, the page involves mean able and angel along with adultery. Hence, the symbol of dishonor becomes a badge of honor. In a larger feeling, then, the scarlet page represents Hester's identification, whom she is to by herself also to other people, which shifts throughout the book. The symbol is echoed in Pearl (the living embodiment of the A, dressed in one scene to match the page), the meteor streaking over the sky, the A that Pearl fashions with seaweed and sets on her behalf upper body, last but not least the A on the gravestone that links Hester's grave and Dimmesdale's.

The very last lines associated with guide describe that slate headstone, etched with a shield your narrator describes utilising the language of heraldry: «ON the FIELD, SABLE, THE LETTER A, GULES.» The words sable and gules suggest black colored and red whenever accustomed make reference to a coat of hands. The sign that defined Hester in life defines her in death; ironically, the sign that Dimmesdale concealed in life defines him in death besides.

The colour Red

In the Western social tradition, red symbolizes sin, love, passion, and intercourse. For example, the scarlet page is red; individuals give red flowers for their enthusiasts, and red hearts are normal on valentine's. Red additionally symbolizes energy, which is shown in Pearl's «wild» energy and in Chapter 20, when Hester takes the lead in planning their getting away from Boston, as Dimmesdale is simply too weak and indecisive to make decisions. After she declares her decision, she casts off the letter, but «a crimson flush» glowed on her behalf cheek «that was in fact very long therefore pale.» Relieved of the burden associated with the letter, Hester concerns life: «the woman intercourse, the woman youth, plus the entire richness of her beauty, came ultimately back.»

The Scaffold

The scaffold symbolizes shame, general public confession, and punishment for a crime or a sin. It seems at three very carefully balanced places in the book: in the beginning, the precise middle, as well as the end. In Chapter 2 the Puritans force Hester to stand regarding scaffold and stay humiliated by the city. The narrator writes: «actually, this scaffold constituted some of a penal machine.… Ab muscles ideal of ignominy [disgrace] was embodied and made manifest inside contrivance of lumber and iron. There might be no outrage, methinks, against our typical nature,—whatever function as the delinquencies of this individual,—no outrage more flagrant than to forbid at fault to hide their face for shame; since it ended up being the essence of this punishment to accomplish. In Hester Prynne's instance, but as not infrequently in other situations, her phrase bore, that she should stand a particular time upon the platform.»

The second appearance is available in the middle of the guide. In Chapter 12 Dimmesdale mounts the scaffold in «this vain show of expiation.» He shrieks aloud, but, despite his conviction that somebody will awaken and thus his confession will finally be made, nobody hears him, and his punishment remains personal in the place of general public. This event, obviously, comes during the night, linking the scaffold towards the symbols of sunlight and shadow or night.

The 3rd look of the scaffold is in Chapter 23, whenever Dimmesdale, accompanied by Hester and Pearl, finally makes his general public confession. This confession comes in the light of time and before the entire town, finally releasing Dimmesdale's guilt right before he dies.

Sunlight and Shadow

Sunlight and shadow are two crucial symbols into the book all together; the shadow symbol may also be connected to evening. In Chapter 8, for instance, Dimmesdale stands within the shadow within the governor's yard as soon as the question of Pearl's custody is talked about, as he conceals his sin. Hester stands within the sunlight, having revealed her sin towards the public. By firmly taking Dimmesdale's hand, Pearl is symbolically acknowledging that he is the woman daddy. Dimmesdale, but is definately not willing to admit which he had been Hester's lover and Pearl is their child. The sunshine shines on Hester and Dimmesdale in the woodland once they consent to flee to England, as though your choice is endowed. Consequently, sunlight represents God's grace and love; the shadows represent privacy, absence of love, and not enough truth.

Real Appearance

In a few circumstances a character's physical appearance becomes an outward manifestation of his / her internal life. Hester is gorgeous and vibrant at the beginning of the book whenever this woman is being defiant. Over the years she dampens her spirit, becoming more accommodating, as well as in the process loses some of the woman beauty. Only in scene with Dimmesdale inside forest, when she seems the promise of hope, is she described as gorgeous once again. Dimmesdale, wracked by guilt, wastes and sickens. Chillingworth's misshapen human body symbolizes their twisted heart, the exterior shell representing the inner corruption.

Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale

In their love as well as its wrenching result, Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne is visible as Adam and Eve. Their love affair, their sin, results in their being trashed regarding the community: Hester in a literal feeling (as she's shunned and separated), Dimmesdale in a symbolic feeling (as he tortures himself over their weakness and hypocrisy). Their love additionally results in knowledge—what it indicates to reject the teachings of their church. This symbolism reflects a central belief among Puritans, the original sin of Adam and Eve.

The Characters' Names


Pearl is an allusion on parable for the pearl present in Matthew 13:45–46: «Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, looking for goodly pearls: whom, as he had found one pearl of good price, went and sold all that he had, and purchased.» The parable is usually interpreted to recommend the fantastic value of paradise. Hawthorne makes use of the parable in two methods. First, it symbolizes the fantastic cost that Hester covered her affair—the loss of respect, causing isolation and loneliness. Pearl is uncontrollable, subject to wild mood swings. The woman behavior is both a reflection of Hester's passion and a reaction to the extreme loneliness and isolation they endure. Second, Pearl herself is beyond value because she actually is Hester's youngster and nothing is more valuable to a parent than a young child. That value is enhanced in Pearl's case as she actually is practically Hester's only friend.


Chillingworth's title shows the icy core at the center of their being. Driven by revenge, he loses their humanity and becomes frozen out of mankind. Their chill reaches others besides, since the revenge he enacts on Dimmesdale really helps to destroy the minister. Finally, because Chillingworth is not able to love, he becomes the Black Man, Satan.


Dimmesdale's name indicates the fate he will experience, a dreadful sickening and decrease attributable to guilt, a dimming of their vigor and character. As dale describes a meadow, with associations of fresh, green nature, their name also implies a dimming of nature through his Puritan feeling of shame.

The Ebony Man

The Ebony guy is symbolic for Satan, pure evil. The expression mainly represents Chillingworth. Whenever Hester first sees the woman spouse in Chapter 4, she claims, «Why dost thou look so at me?… Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about united states? Hast thou enticed me into a bond which will show the ruin of my soul?» certainly Chillingworth tries, forcing Hester to promise not to expose their identity so they can probe the minister's heart to find out if his suspicions that Dimmesdale is Hester's fan are true. Chillingworth is visible once the devil because he utilizes their cleverness to aid destroy Dimmesdale. In that way he comes to appear to be the devil and behave like him.

Years later Pearl asks her mother for a story about the Black Man. Hester replies, «Once in my life we met the Black Man!… This scarlet page is their mark.» The devil has left his mark by means of her sin, the scarlet letter. This concept is echoed whenever Pearl asks Hester about Dimmesdale and Ebony guy: «And, mother, he has his give his heart! Can it be because, once the minister penned their title in book, the Black guy set his mark in that spot? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, mom?» Guilt and concealment have remaining their mark on Dimmesdale also. Dimmesdale's inability to show the reality shows that evil has impacted him.

The Forest

The woodland has two opposing definitions: an ethical backwoods and also the loving embrace of nature. To the Puritans the woodland had been a terrifying place, filled with wild animals, Native Us citizens, and, at night, Satan and witches. Hence, Hawthorne links Hester's shame and the woman exile towards terrifying woodland: «She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast, as intricate, and shadowy while the untamed woodland.» But the forest also welcomes Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale: it is the environment for the only amount of time in the guide that Hester and Dimmesdale are able to talk to each other alone when they policy for better days to come.

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