The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a book that contains much symbolism and is a perfect example of 19th century romanticism. One aspect of romanticism is the fascination with the natural world, which is captured in Hawthorne's rich use of imagery. He uses the representation of light and darkness to help portray good and evil in society. Plant and growth imagery is also used to reveal the temper of each character. The forest is a third way in which nature is used to help portray the states-of-mind of different characters. Hawthorne uses the romantic ideal of nature to represent the psychological and moral states of different characters. .
Hawthorne uses symbols of light and dark to depict the battle of good and evil among the characters of Hester, Pearl, and Chillingworth. The sun is used as a symbol of good nature and purity. Because of her sin, Hester is no longer a pure human being; therefore, she is not touched by sunlight. The reader notices this when Pearl points out, "the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom" (138). This is evidence that the scarlet letter is the cause of Hester's darkness. Later in the book, Hester is in the forest and she throws the scarlet letter off of her bosom. When she throws it on the ground, "forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest" (152). This represents how light accepts Hester only after she throws away her sin. Pearl is described as being drawn to the sun, and the sun is drawn to her. When she is playing at the governor's mansion she wants, "the sunshine [to] be stripped off its front and given to her to play with" (77). Hester responds by saying that Pearl must find her own sunshine. In this instance, the light is symbolic of truth, and Pearl, throughout the entire book, is a character who persistently demands to know the truth.