Symbols in Scarlet letter Flashcard Example #58939

The “A”
The chief symbol in the novel is the scarlet letter “A”, which openly symbolizes Hester’s ADULTERY! Could also symbolize: AGONY, which Hester displays in her isolated life and which Dimmesdale displays in his deteriorating health. ABILITY, for she has become a generous helper for the poor and downtrodden and a wise counselor for their problems.
Represents a constant reminder of salvation and hope to all the prisoners.
Pearl was born into a world of sin and for her to be saved, everyone must find their salvation through her. It represents a light in the darkness of Hester’s sin.
The Forest
The forest represents a free world and a dark world where no Puritan law exists. Hawthorne uses the forest to provide a “shelter” for members of society in need of a refuge from daily Puritan life. The forest itself is the embodiment of freedom.
The color of the letter carries special significance. It is red because that is the color associated with the devil, and the Puritans believed that Hester’s sin was a mark of Satan.
Shadow (light)
1. the rays of sunshine fall on Pearl but do not reach Hester
2. darkness is dispelled when she meets with Dimmesdale and plans to flee from Boston with him
Shadow (darkness)
1. darkness is suggestive of the dull gloom in her life
2. As a symbol of her freedom, she throws away the scarlet letter and undoes her hair. Appropriately, a flood of sunshine illuminates the forest, dispelling the darkness.
The scaffold
The scaffold is used by the characters throughout the book to either project their emotions, or have emotions projected upon themselves. Example: Hester Prynne and her daughter, Pearl, are being interrogated by the top officials of the town. Here, Hester and Pearl are forced to climb up to the scaffold, where they are singled out and alienated while they are forced to endure public persecution. Throughout their humiliation they are forced to cope alone with their emotions alone atop the scaffold.
Dimmesdale clutching his chest
Dimmesdale’s gesture can be taken both literally and figuratively. He held his hand to his heart because he was suffering such guilt for his secret sin, or he held his hand to his heart because he was branded with his own scarlet letter.

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