Every human being needs the opportunity to express how he or she truly feels, otherwise the emotions are bottled up until they become volatile. Unfortunately, Puritan society did not permit this kind of expression, thus characters had to seek alternate means to relieve their personal anguishes and desires. Luckily, at least for the four main characters, Hawthorne provides such a sanctuary in the form of the ysterious forest. In the deep, dark portions of the forest, many of the pivotal characters bring forth hidden thoughts and emotions.
The reader is thus invited to consider the whole story as a progressive uncovering of the "truth" of a symbol that constitutes one of the most enigmatic elements of American literature.
Critics over the years focused on this search for a hidden significance, and put forward their own interpretation of this "truth. The narrator frequently uses this word throughout the romance, and its various occurrences enable us to shape a definition that corresponds to his personal use of symbols.
From this starting point, I would like to show how Hawthorne stages the interpretative process within The Scarlet Letter, and how this provides keys for the reader on how to read them.
The word "symbol" and its meaning in The Scarlet Letter First, I would like to provide a few basic elements on the definitions of allegory and symbol as I will use them in this analysis.
I will try to demonstrate that the scarlet "symbol," as well as its full-fledged equivalent Pearl, pertains on the contrary to a symbolic mode of representation. Both partake of the creation of a spiritual meaning, and enable the author to provide several layers of interpretation. The distinction between the two figures appeared later and was shaped mainly by German romantics.
The distinction between symbol and allegory can be organized around three main points. Justice as a blindfold woman carrying scales and a sword can be used as an example to clarify matters.
The woman does not exist at the first level of understanding; she does not have a name or a personal history. Using such an image only aims at indirectly referring to the abstract idea of justice which exists outside of such a representation.
On the other hand, the symbol has a syncretic value: The interpretation of allegory is finite, whereas that of symbol is infinite. The blindfold woman represents the concept of justice, and that figure could be replaced by the concept without losing any meaningful element.
On the contrary, if a symbol is assigned one definite meaning, some of its reality as a literary object is ignored. Understanding allegories requires cultural knowledge, whereas the comprehension of symbol is intuitive.
One must learn what the blindfold woman stands for, or to guess one must reflect upon her various attributes and relate them to the cultural idea of justice.
The figure does not appeal to sensitivity, and emotions are not part of the understanding process. According to John Irwin, Champollion isolated a series of signs that could not be deciphered and that are tantamount to the symbolic signs per se; these "anaglyphs" correspond to the lost wisdom of the Egyptians.
Starting from that definition, I would first like to show that the scarlet letter is endowed with many characteristics pertaining to a symbolic mode.
This contribution aims to describe how, in The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne ventured far into the realm of romantic symbol, discovered the ambiguities and uncertainties related to such a mode of expression, and attempted at providing a number of answers to the problems he encountered.
However, it is far from certain that he considered these answers as satisfactory. I would like to submit the hypothesis that this is the reason why Hawthorne abandoned such a mode and returned to a more classic allegorical mode, at least up to the unfinished undertaking known as The Elixir of Life Manuscripts.
The example of "Egotism or the Bosom Serpent" is probably the most appropriate. An entry dated from in the Notebooks hints at a possible idea for a tale in such terms: He repeatedly insists upon the materiality of the serpent, especially in the final scene when Roderick is finally delivered: At that moment, if report be trustworthy, the sculptor beheld a waving motion through the grass, and heard a tinkling sound, as if something had plunged into the fountain.
This fusion of the spiritual meaning - Roderick acted unselfishly and is delivered from his egotism - and the material aspect - the serpent left his bosom - thus presides over the conclusion of the tale, bringing a tinge of romantic flavor to his allegorical dish.
But it is interesting to remark that Poe used the term "allegory," whereas Hawthorne preferred that of "symbol" in The Scarlet Letter. No less than twenty-four occurrences of the noun or the verb can be numbered, delineating a definition of symbol that undoubtedly leans towards that of the German romantics.
We can find in The Scarlet Letter a blatant refusal of such a mode when he presents Hester during the first scaffold scene with this sentence: Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast, [ ] as the figure, the body, the reality of sin.Every chapter in The Scarlet Letter has symbols displayed through characterization, setting, colors, and light.
Perhaps the most dramatic chapters using these techniques are the chapters comprising the three scaffold scenes and the meeting in the forest between Hester and Dimmesdale. These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way.
When Nathaniel. A summary of The Custom-House: Introductory in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
The Scarlet Letter - The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne On the front of Hester Prynne s gown, in fine red cloth, was the letter A. It was surrounded by fancy designs in gold | PowerPoint PPT presentation | free to view. Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. About this page. Throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a few key symbols to represent major themes in the book.
The most obvious and well known, as it is in the title, is the scarlet letter Hester is forced to wear. Three other symbols are the scaffold, the sun, and. The Scarlet Letter – Puritan Society In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid Puritan society in which one is unable to divulge his or her innermost thoughts and secrets.