Essays

The Scarlet Letter

This book tells of a woman’s struggle to gain respect and to nurture her child, which is the fruit of her sin of adultery with the towns minister. The Scarlet Letter is a well written book that focuses on what symbolizes the main characters lives and what affects these symbols have on the characters. The Scarlet Letter contains and utilizes symbols within its characters and its setting. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a 19th century author, was a romantic writer whose works are respected today and will be for some time to come.

Guilt, strength, and revenge are three very important components of the Scarlet Letter. One character was Pearl Prynne, the daughter of the adulteress and a powerful symbolism was created when “Pearl Took some eelgrass and imitated, as best she could, on her own bosom the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s – a letter – the letter ‘A’. ” (124) Throughout the story Pearl is shown looking at or playing with the scarlet letter on her mothers bosom so as to mock her.

Later in the story Pearl refuses to acknowledge her mother because she is not wearing the scarlet letter when “Seen in the brook, once more, was the shadowy wrath of Pearls image, crowned and girdled with flowers, but stamping it’s foot, wildly gesticulation midst of all, still pointing, it’s small forefinger at Hester’s bosom. ” (206) Pearl has grown accustomed to the letter, and when it is gone she does not recognize her own mother. This is painful for Hester because her own daughter is mocking her.

This in some way shows that Pearl has bonded with her mother through the scarlet letter. Hester Prynne’s connection with the minister is best symbolized by Pearl when she declares “And why does the minister keep his hand over his heart? ” (175) Throughout the book, Pearl is fascinated by the fact that the minister is constantly placing his hand over his chest and this is before she has any idea that he is her father. It can be assumed that she sees the letter and the hand over the heart as the connection between her mother and the minister.

In the second scene in which the characters are together again at the scaffold, Pearl is standing in between Hester and Dimmesdale. This clearly is a symbol that she links the two together when “Hester silently ascended the steps, and stood on the platform, holding little Pearl by the hand. The minister felt for the child’s other hand, and took it The three formed an electric chain. ” (149) Finally the three of them are connected as one, one as a family. This is what Hester wanted for Pearl all along, a normal family environment.

Now together, they show the community that they will last and nothing will break them apart. The scarlet letter is a timeless classic because the storyline is as real today as it was a century ago. The reader is drawn into the characters’ lives, empathizing with their predicaments. Teenagers are not too far removed from Pearl’s age and can appreciate the comfort of a family environment. Pearl’s struggles therefore become more tangible allowing the reader to experience her joys and sorrows.

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