The Scarlet Letter as a Great Example of Artistic Symbolism


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Kenzo Tange once said, “There is a powerful need for symbolism, and that means the architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart”. In literature, symbols are often used to make a material object have a deeper meaning and connection with nature. Many authors strive to use these symbols to strengthen the work of the expression and artistic effect of the story. Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel The Scarlet Letter is a great example of this artistic symbolism, which he portrays throughout the novel. `Hawthorn uses symbolism in two main ways first by comparing Pearl to the freedom of broken law and through how nature is observed.

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First, Pearl represents the freedom of unbroken law through her actions and thoughts. She is the carefree daughter of Hester Prynne who has a very mixed personality. Fieldson describes the indefinable qualities of Pearl who, “could not be made amicable to the rules and whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder”. This quote illustrates how free Pearl is and what she symbolizes throughout her young life. When further evaluating Pearl’s role in society Gable describes her saying, “Pearl is a wild creature of the forest who will not accept regulation, an inhuman elf-child”. The fact that Pearl won’t accept any sort of regulation proves that she is utterly absent-minded of the rules that are supposed to keep people in check. To wrap up, Pearl is the epitome of freedom and unbroken law which can be see-through her wild selfish nature in the form of a symbol.

Next, Hawthorn uses symbolism through specific examples in nature such as the seasons and the rose bush. The four seasons in the novel represent the transition of life and the alternating phenomenon that occur during these transitions. While talking about this form of symbolism Chao states, “Winter to spring, Hester brought the child by herself”. It is evident that a child was born at the same time the season changed into spring, in which nature brings new life as a deeper symbol. The rosebush mention at the beginning of the novel also represents nature through a symbol of sweet moral blossom. “It may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close tale of human frailty and sorrow”. This quote shows how the rosebush served to tell a tale in which growth took place in someone’s life both sweet and bittersweet. Overall, nature repeats itself through the novel countless times a symbol of life and change over the course of Hester’s life. 

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