An Analysis of Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel of conflict between a woman in love and the stern Puritan community in which she resides. Hawthorne illustrates that a woman who follows her heartbreaks the laws of the community. Hester Prynne leaves that community to reside in isolation with her illegitimate child. Hester always maintains her love, not for her husband, but the sinful love she has for her fellow adulterer. After a cursory inspection, this would seem to be no more than a dime-store romance about a love denied; however, after a closer reading, this proves to be a novel about brilliantly interwoven characters written in a technically complex format. The symbolism of the prison, roses, the scaffold, the letter "A," contrasts between light and dark, and the forest throughout the novel are the undefined characters. An understanding of these symbols is vital to a complete comprehension of the complexity of the story; Hawthorne technique of using symbolism is brilliant and it helps the reader understand the whole concept. .
In The Scarlet Letter, images increase the reader's understanding of the characters. The first chapter sets the tone for the story. Though the initial settlers of New England set out to establish a "Utopia of human virtue," (Hawthorne 1358) they nevertheless recognized the need to allot "virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison"(1358). This testifies that even in a land so far removed from there .
native Britain, death and sin are invariably traits of human existence. It is in this prison, the "black flower of civilized society,"(1358) the first contrast of good and evil is introduced. In front of the prison grew a rose bush "covered in this month of June, with its delicate gems"(1358). The rose bush grew among unsightly vegetation "which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early born the black flower of civilized society," the prison (1358).