The Scarlet Letter Essay Example

The Scarlet Letter Essay Example
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The Scarlet Letter is a romantic work of literature in a historical setting. The work was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the year 1850. Many consider this piece of art to be his magnum opus, a set that placed him on higher literature ground. The work is about Hester Prynne, a lady who conceives and gives birth to a daughter through an affair and fights to create a new life of dignity and repentance. Hawthorne explores theme of sin, guilt and legalism. This essay explains the intensive use of symbolism in constructing main ideas in the story and their religious implication. In addition, the article will demonstrate how symbolism assists the reader to understand main ideas and make it interesting to read.

The narrator uses symbols to make hidden communication to the society. In this case, the symbols carry coded messages that could only be interpreted by individuals that are conversant with the situation setup. Major themes highlighted in this art are the sin, guilt and Puritan legalism. In this case, the author uses symbols to underline the two concerns in the society. Some of the symbols the author uses are Pearl, the Hester’s daughter symbolizing the price of sin while the Black Man represents Satan. In “…I happened to place it on my breast….It seemed to me then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of a burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron. I shuddered, and involuntarily let it fall upon the floor.”, pg. 31, the burning heart symbolizes the guilt caused by sin. On the other hand, the Puritans use symbols to communicate to their fellow believers concerning the religious matter. According to (Schlereth, Thomas 185), the Puritans communicated religious messages using symbols so as to prepare the congregation for the paradise party that God has prepared for them. In this case, therefore, puritans only used symbols for religious affairs.

Puritans introduced strong religious beliefs that strongly influenced colonial days in New England. Orthodox or traditional Puritans believed that God held supreme power over man, and that man was fundamentally a creature of less significance. In this case, human beings were absolutely dependent on Gods grace for their deliverance. The symbolic implies that the Puritans spent much of their time appeasing God so that He can be merciful to them.

In the matter of religious implication, both the narrator and the Puritans use symbols to demonstrate matters relating to religion. In one incident the author writes, “he will be known and put to task.” to indicate that sinners will never go unpunished (Chapter 3, pg. 59). The narrator builds his work on the proposal to ‘’encourage people to live a faithful life that please their God’’, (Chapter 3, pg. 89). In addition, the author warns the people against the punishment for sin and the role of Satan in bringing calamities in the life of faithful. Similarly, the Puritans use symbols to convey various aspects of their religion. According to (Schlereth, Thomas 202), his sin gives him “sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his chest vibrate[s] in unison with theirs.” These demonstrate that the Puritans use symbols for purely religious matters and hence both the narrator and the Puritans use symbols for matters regarding faith.

Symbols have been used in the two contexts for the purpose of laying emphasis on the themes highlighted by the author and hence they do not foreshadow events. In this case, symbols have been used to bring out ideas into better perspectives so that the reader can relate to them. This enables the audience to obtain deeper and fine details about the story. It is important to note that the use of symbols has not changed the main ideas developed in the story.

Concerning the role of symbolism in helping the characters understand their lives, the author has used symbols that readers can relate with. The context at which symbols are used creates an imagery effect that is very crucial artistic devices in analyzing literal work. The imagery effect further makes it interesting for readers. Furthermore, the use of figuration helps the readers understand the work of literature.


In conclusion, symbols are used to demonstrate and can only be interpreted by individuals who are conversant with the situation setup. The writer explains the intensive use of symbolism in constructing main ideas in the story and their religious implication to the society. Symbolism has been used to warn people of the punishment and bringing of calamities by Satan as a result of sins.

In addition, symbols have been used to bring out ideas in matter relating to religion and readers can understand it in a better perspective. The imaginary effect that is created by the context of symbols helps readers to analyze the literature work since it entices them to find the book interesting. Nathaniel Hawthorne effectively used symbols to express himself to the society. Use of symbols has made his work to be very attractive to literature analysts and commentators. Since he used symbols that readers can relate with, the work has earned admiration from many, (Schlereth, Thomas 345).

Work Cited
Schlereth, Thomas J. Material Culture Studies in America. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira, 1999. Print.