Symbolism is very evident throughout The Scarlet Letter. The most apparent use of symbolism is the scarlet letter itself. It signifies a number of different things, most obviously adultery and ability. The forest and the things that occur in the forest are symbols too. Pearl is also a symbol; she is a living representation of Hester's sin. .
When Pearl and Hester go into the forest, rays of sunshine fall on Pearl but do not fall on Hester. This symbolizes how easy it is for Pearl to find happiness. Hester, on the other hand, cannot escape the forest's darkness (gloom in her life) to reach sunlight (happiness). The darkness in the forest disappears when Hester and Dimmesdale meet and talk about their plans. Hester then takes off her scarlet letter and takes down her hair as a symbol of her freedom. As she does this, beams of sunlight light up the forest.
The scarlet letter is a symbol of shame and punishment for Hester. The letter is originally intended to stand for Hester's sin of adultery. The "A" serves as a physical reminder of Hester's sin, but compared to the mental struggle she goes through every day it is insignificant. With or without the letter Hester would feel the same guilt, and she would still be frowned upon by the community. As the novel goes on, Hester begins to be looked up to by some townspeople. The townspeople say the "A" stands for ability. There is even talk of getting rid of the letter all together. .
Pearl is a punishment as well as a blessing. She is the human version of the scarlet letter, representing Hester's transgression. She is also Hester's daughter and Hester"s only real reason for staying alive. Pearl has a passionate and rebellious nature throughout the book. She is perceived to be a demon-child by everyone( even Hester) and does not become fully human until Dimmesdale admits that he is her father.
These are only a few examples of the many occurrences of symbolism in this novel.