An analysis of the use of symbolism in the book scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else.

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.

Instead of offering my own A-word as a key to understanding Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece, I would like to focus on the notion of symbol itself, and on the way the author organizes this search for a meaning.

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. Starting from that definition, Poe's analysis of Hawthorne's works as "allegorical" can be qualified, especially in The Scarlet Letter in which Hawthorne blatantly refuses some key aspects of an allegorical mode of representation.

An analysis of the use of symbolism in the book scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

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. The two elements remain distinct and the object's sole function is to suggest the secondary meaning. 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.

An analysis of the use of symbolism in the book scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

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. Hawthorne's definition should be set within the theoretical debate opposing allegory and symbol that first appeared in Goethe's works.

Hawthorne's knowledge of German, although limited according to his wife, enables us to assume that he was at least acquainted with these theories. Moreover, the question of understanding symbols is largely common among intellectuals at the time, since Champollion's discovery of the meaning of hieroglyphs had a great impact on various authors of the American Renaissance.

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.'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Reviewed for which our previous analysis of the contents of the egg had not prepared us.

such a book as The Scarlet Letter would doubtless. The Scarlet Letter's symbolism helps create a powerful drama in Puritan Boston: a kiss, evil, sin, nature, the scarlet letter, and the punishing scaffold. Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece is a classic example of the human conflict between emotion and intellect.

Nathaniel hawthorne symbolism is quite a rare and popular topic for writing an essay, new topic nathaniel hawthorne young goodman brown analysis Hawthorne Symbolism Nathaniel Hawthorn Hawthorne Effect Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne book report.

7 pages ( words). The Scarlet Letter: A Romance, an novel, is a work of historical fiction written by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

It is considered his "masterwork". [2] Set in 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, during the years to , it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles. A summary of Symbols 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. Use our free chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis of The Scarlet Letter.

It helps middle and high school students understand Nathaniel Hawthorne's literary masterpiece.

The Scarlet Letter - Wikipedia